The British swimmer breaking down barriers

By ITV Central Producer, Monifa Bobb-Simon

Alice Dearing from Birmingham is one of Britain's top female marathon swimmers. In 2016, she became the first Brit to win gold at a World Junior Open Water Championship and now, she has set her sights on reaching the Tokyo Olympics next year.

The 23-year-old trains at Loughborough University and has called the opportunity to swim for Team GB 'very exciting”. If she qualifies, Alice could make history by becoming the first black woman to represent Great Britain in swimming at the games.

She hopes to be the person who can break new barriers and offer an opportunity to showcase "what black athletes can do both in and out of the water".

Alice is currently the only woman of colour swimming for Great Britain. Credit: PA images

Alice said: "We are not just basketballers, footballers, athletics – we can do swimming as well.”

But she doesn’t just spend her time in the water. Alice has helped set up the Black Swimming Association (BSA), a charity launched to highlight the importance of swimming as an essential life skill.


Since it launched last year, she has been helping challenge common misconceptions.

“I’ve heard a lot like ‘black people don’t swim’ ‘our bones are too dense’, ‘we sink when we get in the water’ and they have been repeated to black people over generations so there are so many complex issues wrapped up within it and we’re really hoping to crack some of these down.”

Credit: ITV News Central

Alice says barriers can be something as simple as having afro hair, but this can be overcome.

She said: "It's about explaining to black women that there are ways to protect your hair when you get in the water, that it shouldn’t be a factor that stops you from swimming."

95%

Of black adults do not go swimming

80%

Of black children do not go swimming


Under-representation of the BME community is believed to be in part due to affordability and stereotypes about the sport. Swim England has recently partnered with the BSA and CEO Jane Nickerson says accessibility plays a role too.

She said: “We have a problem with facilities and access to facilities and access is huge and getting worse because of Covid with not all pools being open at the moment. "

We know that there are 4.2 million people living in highly populated BAME communities where a significant number of those pools are not open – where they are located but they are not open. 

Jane Nickerson, Swim England Chief Executive

It's hoped the partnership can help Swim England increase visibility, representation and participation of BME groups within the sport.

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