'I'll never stop trying to get everyone swimming'

Alice Dearing
Dearing's love for the sport blossomed after taking lessons at Sandwell Aquatics Club [Getty Images]

History-making marathon swimmer Alice Dearing has pledged to continue championing diversity in the sport after announcing her retirement.

The 27-year-old was first black woman to represent Team GB in swimming at an Olympic Games when she competed in the open water category at Tokyo in 2020.

Dearing, from Birmingham, has used her platform to co-found the Black Swimming Association (BSA) to tackle the barriers that limit people from African, Caribbean and Asian heritage from taking up aquatics.

She told BBC Radio WM there was still decades of work ahead to boost participation.

“It’s not a quick fix, we’re not talking five years, we’re talking probably more than one or two generations," she said.

"It will take work, which will happen long after our lives at the BSA but it’s important work to be done and we’re talking about hopefully saving lives.”

Alice Dearing
She co-founded the Black Swimming Association to help diversify the sport [Getty Images]

Dearing hung up her professional swimming cap earlier this week after failing to qualify for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

“It did hurt - everything was going really well, training was going well, I had really thrown myself into the sport but in the moment when it wasn’t happening for me I knew this is it,” she told BBC WM.

“As an athlete you’re told, ‘you will know when your time is done’, and I just knew that my time was done.”

World champion

Her passion was born at the age of five when her mum enrolled her and her brother in classes at their local pool in Langley, Sandwell.

Four years later she was competing in county competitions and swam on a national level by the age of 12, going on to become a world and European junior champion.

The former Royal Wolverhampton School pupil added: “I’m grateful that I’ve been in the sport for this long, Paris didn’t happen for me and that’s how sport goes sometimes, that’s the ugly and the beauty of sport.”

Around 95% of black adults and 93% of Asian adults in the UK do not swim, data compiled by Sport England has revealed.

The former Olympian said: “There have been myths that black people’s bones are too dense for us to be able to float effectively which means we can’t physically swim, that’s not true.

Alice Dearing
Dearing said she will never stop trying to more people in the pool [Getty Images]

“It's a skill that everybody should have, your chances of surviving in water are greatly reduced if you don’t know how to swim.

“I would love to see swimming being a community for everybody one day.

“This is a big part of why I started and there is no way I can back out now, I won’t be shutting up about this anytime soon.”

Raj Singh, head coach at Sandwell Aquatics Club where Dearing first learned the sport, said he felt “a sense of pride” when he looked back on her achievements.

He said: “It shows anyone can achieve those things which is heartwarming to look back on.

“She has inspired everyone in and around our swimming club, where we are in Sandwell, it is a very multicultural area and you can definitely see the impact she has had on getting more people in the pool.”

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