During the 2012 Olympics in London, Gabby Douglas became the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal in the individual all-around competition. Douglas became a household name, and her triumph was heard around the world. Douglas, at the young age of 16, brought America its fourth gold medal in individual all-around ever, and made a mark in history that will set an example for many younger girls to come.
Given the worldwide support Douglas received after her well-deserved win, shock waves were sent through the world of gymnastics when United States’ Simone Biles got racial slurs in response to her win last week at the World Championships. Held in Antwerp, Belgium, the World Championships have never seen a black woman win the all-round title until Biles did so last week—a tremendous accomplishment.
After the medals were received, Biles’ competitor Carlotta Ferlito of Italy was getting interviewed by a reporter when she gave her opinion of the win: “I told teammate Vanessa Ferrari that next time we should also paint our skin black so then we can win, too.” The hurtful comment didn’t go over so well Biles’ father, who later told USA Today that “the racial comment was out of line.”
Although Biles has not commented on the incident, Ferlito has made a public statement via Twitter.
"I want to apologize with the Americans girls. I didn't want to sound rude or racist. I love Simone and I'm a huge fan of USA gymnastics," she said. "I've made a mistake, I'm not perfect, I was too nervous and I didn't think about what I was saying. I'm just a human. I'm so so sorry."
The Washington Post reports that in trying to explain Ferlito's comments, the Federation of Gymnastics in Italy "Federazione Ginnastica d'Italia" posted a link on their Facebook page which shows different althletes abilities to race. David Ciaralli, the spokesman for the federation later stated that he was the one to post the link following up with "What I said was my thoughts, not the official thoughts of the federation."
In response to the troubling news and the Facebook post made by Ciaralli, the USA Gymnastics president, Steve Penny said "USA Gymnastics is disappointed by the recent comments made by Carlotta Ferlito and apparently by the Italian Gymnastic Federation. Gymnastics is a global and inclusive sport with talented athletes, and there is no place for racial insensitivity. We are contacting the Italian Federation for clarification on its comments."
According to Yahoo! Sports Ron Biles, Simone's father, states the comments are "insulting". Later he added, "normally it's not in her favor being black, at least not in the world that I live in." As previously mentioned, Biles herself did not yet comment on the incident.