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One of my earliest memories of the ocean dates back to when I was four years old.
We were on a family holiday in Greece. And as we explored the island, we inevitably ended up on the coast, high above the ocean standing on a walled stone path, the sea stretching out endlessly before me. I can't recall what I thought or felt in that moment, but the beauty of that scene has stayed with me for years.
Since that early memory, I've had the opportunity to swim in seas, lakes, and rivers all over the world, competing for Great Britain on a senior international level.
My name is Alice Dearing.
I'm 23 years old, and I'm currently the only woman of colour swimming for Great Britain. And so far, swimming has shaped my life in ways my four-year-old self could only have dreamt of.
In 2016, I became World Junior Champion in the marathon (10km) swimming event. Since then, I've been improving my performances on the senior stage, looking to qualify for my first Olympic Games. If I qualify, I'll be the first woman of colour to swim for Great Britain at the Olympics.
I learnt to swim around the age of six. I'm told that's quite a late age, but it means I can still vividly remember how excited – and scared – I was when the teacher took off four of my six arm bands. It's funny how people can be so scared of something that should be so natural. But looking back, I'm glad someone was there to push me to learn – even if they thought I was starting late.
Two years later, my mum signed my brother and I up for the local swimming club. At the time, I thought it was a strange decision: one that seemed almost random. Even now, she still justifies it as her way of keeping my brother and I entertained after being bored at home.
We moved through the club system together, my brother eventually moving into teaching and coaching to great success, while I moved into a professional level and joined my first international team in pool events (European Juniors) at the age of sixteen. Since then, I've swum at three European Championships, three World Championships, and many other international events.
Away from the pool, I'm currently studying at Loughborough University, doing an MA after gaining a BA in Politics. Education has been a huge part of my life so far, and I wanted to make sure I stayed well-rounded as an athlete.
When I think of SOUL CAP, I can see so many shared values between us. I've had a journey with my hair (and managing it!) while becoming an elite swimmer – but I never questioned whether it was the swimming cap or my hair that was the problem.
People used to tell me my hair was "too big" for the cap – never that the cap was too small for my hair.
But SOUL CAP shows us that a person doesn’t have to mould themselves to fit one size. They're opening the doorway to allow everyone to protect their hair – no matter how "big" that hair might be.
Being a minority in the water has had its challenges. But I've always believed that there's a way around them. People like SOUL CAP are out there creating alternatives, giving people the chance to express themselves and do the things they love without limitations placed on them.
I've always been an advocate for making swimming more accessible for everyone. And I'm excited to start working with SOUL CAP. I want to see more diversity in the water, and I can't wait to help create this joint vision that can inspire everyone to swim – for enjoyment, health, or competition.
Written by Michael Chapman
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