Alice Dearing – the first black female to represent Great Britain at the Olympics when she competed in the open water 10km marathon event at the Tokyo 2020 Games – earned another honour. The 25-year-old Birmingham native was among the winners at The Sunday Times’ Sportswomen of the Year Awards, a tribute given to women who have made an outstanding contribution to sport at all levels – from elite to grassroots.
The Changemaker Award celebrates those who have inspired others and used their platforms to create change. Dearing was recognised for her impact on aquatic sports, both in and out of the water.
Celebrating those who have inspired others and used their platform to create change, Dearing’s advocacy around diversity and inclusivity in the swimming world has helped show the world that swimming is for all.
The Changemaker Award celebrates those who have inspired others and used their platforms to create change...Congratulations to the amazing @alicedearingx for winning this award#SportswomenOfTheYear pic.twitter.com/eg5liqCG0P— Times Sport (@TimesSport) November 17, 2022
In an exclusive interview with FINA, Dearing talked earlier about how she started using her position as a top sportsperson to put a spotlight on what it is like to be a black swimmer.
“I just wrote, quite candidly I suppose, about how this is and the challenges it brings,” the FINA World Junior Open Water Championships 2016 women’s individual 10km winner said about her forthright communications that started in 2019.
Breaking Stereotypes: ‘Black People Can’t Swim’
“I’ve heard from a lot of athletes about swim teachers actively telling black people not to come into swimming, pushing them towards athletics instead of swimming because that’s what they think black people are better suited to do,” Dearing said.
A woman was telling me that she went to a pool to learn to swim and asked the swim teacher if she could help her and the swim teacher was like, “No, black people can’t swim because they’re bigger… or something like that.” There are these sad stories where there’s a lot of miscommunication, a lot of myths,” Dearing recalled. “I really want people to know that swimming is for everybody.”
“I really want people to know that swimming is for everybody.”
Bring the Soul into Swim Caps and Competitive Swimming
Throughout 2022, Dearing collaborated with swim cap company Soul Cap on campaigns to promote diversity in the water. One of the outcomes of this advocacy came in September 2022 when FINA added Soul Cap to the approved competitive swimwear list.
Following that announcement, Soul Cap wrote that “we’re amazed and humbled by the way the swim community came together to make a positive change in the sport we all love.”
Added Dearing: “Knowing that it is acceptable to compete in this cap at the highest level of sport sends a message that hair should not be a barrier which stops people from participating.”
Speaking on her achievement, Dearing pushed for even more progression.
“I am very proud and honoured to have won the Changemaker of the year award at the Sportswomen of the Year Awards. It’s amazing that the work The Black Swimming Association, myself and my partners are doing to make swimming accessible and inclusive to all has been recognised and we are continuing to strive forward," Dearing said.
"I want to implore everyone to take the opportunity to learn to swim if you get it and encourage others around you to do the same. It is a life skill which we should all get the opportunity to access.”