Team GB’s first black Olympic swimmer has said she did not want to be a “history-maker” ahead of her maiden race.
Marathon swimmer Alice Dearing said her appearance at the Tokyo Games will be “bittersweet” despite being happy to help “break a barrier”.
The Loughborough University athlete is pushing for a top 10 finish in her first Olympic swim on Wednesday.
She said: “Being the first black woman to represent Team GB in a swimming event is kind of like bittersweet for me.
“I kind of wish it wasn’t me, just because I wish it wasn’t a problem or an issue that black people aren’t as involved in swimming as they could/should be.
“At the same time, it’s so cool to be part of history, part of breaking down a barrier that has stood for so long.
“I really hope people see me and think, ‘OK, if she can swim, I can swim’.
“I wish it didn’t happen this late, or it didn’t have to happen with me as the history-maker.
“It’s one of those things where I wish my race didn’t matter in swimming, but it’s a fact that it does because of the way black people have been stereotyped not to be swimmers, or to sink when they get in the water – all these stereotypes and myths which have sadly kept black people out of swimming for decades.
“I’m just happy that I’ve helped break a barrier and helping by using my voice to advocate for people to get involved in swimming, because swimming is such a cool sport.
“Hopefully within the next few years we’ll start to see a domino effect of more people getting into swimming… it’s available and open to everybody.”
Addressing how she was feeling ahead of the race, Dearing said: “It’s not quite a dream come true. I never really dreamt it because I never thought it possible – so to achieve something beyond my wildest dreams is just an amazing feeling and I’m still waiting for it to sink in.
“My aims for Tokyo are just to train as hard as I can, have no regrets in the pool, and then get to the race venue, get to the competition and just fulfil my potential.
“I’m aiming for a minimum of top 10 because I think, if I execute my race plan as I should, it should work out in that kind of setting.
“It’s so difficult because there’s so many incredible women I’m racing against and with open water it’s so dynamic. It’s two hours of racing, you never know what can happen within it.”