Alice Dearing Continues Drive To Inspire After Making History On “Bittersweet” Olympic Debut

Alice Dearing - Photo Courtesy: Chloe Knott/ for SwimEngland

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Alice Dearing‘s debut Games experience may have been “bittersweet” but what cannot be disputed is the fact she made history as the first black woman to represent Britain in swimming at the Olympics.

Dearing made her bow at the marathon swimming at Odaiba Marine Park, c0ming in 19th, 5.32mins behind winner Ana Marcela Cunha as the Brazilian clinched the title at the third time of asking.

The Briton, who is coached by Andi Manley at Loughborough, found it tough going in difficult conditions which saw the water temperature nudging 30 degrees hours before the 0630am start with fierce air temperatures and humidity also an issue.

She said: “I’m tired, I’m pretty broken. It was really hard, a really tough race. I’m better than that, I know that, so I’ll check over what went wrong and look forward to the next one next year.”

The 24-year-old booked her spot at the FINA qualifier in Setubal, Portugal, in June to become the first black woman to represent Britain at the Olympics and third overall after Kevin Burns, who competed at the 1976 Games in Montreal, and Paul Marshall, who the swam the heats as GB won medley relay bronze four years later in Moscow.

There were a maelstrom of emotions but minutes after leaving the water, Dearing declared her intention to go to Paris 2024.

“It’s bittersweet for me. It was incredible to race at the Olympics, but I’m really disappointed with the result, I know I can do better. I want to go to Paris and have a better race.

“It was just the pace of it, I wasn’t expecting it. I was constantly playing catch up for 2km, swimming at the same pace as the lead pack but not actually with them.

“That takes a lot out of you mentally and physically, not being in it with them. I’ve got a lot to learn, each race is a learning curve and I feel there’s a lot of experience to be gained from this.

“I feel I’ve got a lot to give within the sport.”

Alice Dearing twitter

Photo Courtesy: Liz Byrnes

Dearing has sought to inspire for a long time now and to use her voice to help drive change  by advocating greater diversity within swimming.

She’s a co-founder of the Black Swimming Association, whose aim is to highlight swimming as an essential life skill and to encourage participation as well as prevent drowning in black and minority ethnic communities.

Despite her personal disappointment following her own performance, Dearing looked to inspire once more, saying:

“I just want people to know that it’s open and available to you, regardless of your race or your background.

“If you don’t know how to swim, get in and learn to swim. If you want to go to the Olympics, go and give it your best shot, don’t let anybody tell you it can’t be you. Go and chase your dreams if that’s what you want to do.”

Dearing has worn the Soul Cap which is designed for afro hair and which governing body FINA didn’t allow for use at Tokyo.

Simone Manuel and Natalie Hinds both spoke after the USA won bronze in the women’s 4×100 freestyle relay, the latter saying: “It’s not a step in the right direction for inclusivity in the sport.”

Of whether the ban on the cap would be revoked in competition, Dearing said:

“I hope so. It’s a shame about what happened but I think that the right steps have been taken by FINA with the Soul Cap.

“So I am very optimistic that it will be a better news story next time.”

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