Team GB’s Olympic swim team may have finally finished winning medals in the Tokyo pool – but now Alice Dearing has created her own slice of history at Odaiba Marine Park early this morning.
Dearing became the first black swimmer to represent Team GB at the Olympics and it is hoped that the 24-year-old can be the shining example to encourage more children and adults from diverse backgrounds to play the sport.
Her place in the history books is assured, but the 24-year-old remained frustrated in the 10k race, as she came back 19th in 2: 05: 03.2 – more than five and a half minutes behind gold medalist Ana Marcela Cunha from Brazil.
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Recent figures released by Sport England revealed that 95% of black adults and 80% of black children don’t swim – something Dearing is working to combat after co-founding a charity called the Black Swimming Association in 2020.
“The first time my daughter met Alice Dearing two years ago she was so excited she was like ‘Wow there’s someone looking like me swimming’,” the rapper and producer said. films Ed Accura, who learned to swim two years. 53 years ago and is one of four co-founders alongside Dearing.
“The excitement alone is amazing and inspiring. What Alice has achieved right now is going to create wonders.
“Models are such an important thing. You know what they’re saying, you can’t be what you can’t see.
“The more people you see doing it, the more you think you can do it too, so it’s huge.”
The BSAs are supported by the sport’s governing body, Swim England, and together they have teamed up to increase the number of people from different communities in the pool.
“What we plan to do is get the message out, get into the communities. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” said Accura, who produced the movie Blacks Can’t Swim and its sequel. .
“The programs and policies are there. All we have to do is tweak and adapt them to work in black communities. That’s what we aim to achieve by working with these national governing bodies.”
But Swim England isn’t going to rely solely on Dearing, as a lot of work and research is underway behind the scenes to uncover the main barriers preventing more people from all walks of life from getting involved.
“It’s always great to have role models, people to aspire to and be an inspiration to, but we have a lot of work to do with Alice, not just being a role model and an inspiration, but also working with her and the Black Swimming Association, ”explained Jane Nickerson, Managing Director of Swim England.
“We’re trying to find out why we don’t have a lot of participants from diverse communities and what we need to do to make a difference.
“It’s really important that everyone learns to swim and can enjoy swimming.”
The National Lottery helps support community swimming initiatives across the UK as well as elite athletes like Dearing, a local from Birmingham, who swam at the nearby Oldbury Swim Club when she was younger . Dearing is also supported by British Swimming with its CEO Jack Buckner commenting: “The support of the National Lottery and those who play it week after week has been vital for these athletes like Alice who competed in Tokyo.”
Oldbury head coach Raj Singh believes progress has been made, but more needs to be done to get more black people to take up the sport.
“When I started coaching probably less than 10 percent of our swimmers were from these diverse backgrounds, but five years later we’re almost at just over 30 percent,” said the 29-year-old. , who swam a few lanes. facing a young Dearing in training nearly 15 years ago.
“Alice, to do what she did and get to where she is, shows that stereotypes have no basis.
“I think we’re on the right track for everything, but there’s probably still a lot of work to be done.”
FINA’s ruling that the Soul Cap, a larger swim cap that Dearing often wears to help protect his afro hair, would not be allowed at the Olympics because it could offer an edge and something his size n ‘had not been necessary before reflects how many more agree needs to be done.
Former Olympian-turned-TV expert Mark Foster is hopeful Dearing can spark a new generation of black swimmers following the success of Americans Cullen Jones and Simone Manuel, both gold medalists at the last Games.
“It’s awesome and it’s revolutionary [for Alice]. I’m amazed that a lot more black people don’t swim, but it first comes down to access to pools, but also models, ”Foster said.
“And she’s going to be a huge role model. There have always been world and Olympic champions from Simone Manuel to Cullen Jones – who are black.
“I am optimistic she will inspire another generation of black swimmers.”
Alice Dearing is an important role model in getting more people to swim and in showing people from ethnically diverse communities that swimming can be for you. By playing the National Lottery, the general public is helping to raise £ 36million each week for good causes including community swimming initiatives across the UK and elite level swimming activities. To find the nearest club, go to Discover.swimming.org
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