Simone Biles made history when she became the first African-American gymnast to win the all-around title at the World Championship, but an errant racist comment from an opponent has put a damper on the win.
Biles pulled off the feat at the championship in Antwerp, Belgium, last week. After claiming the title, gymnast Carlotta Ferlito of Italy made a racist comment during a press conference.
“I told (teammate Vanessa Ferrari) that next time we should also paint our skin black so then we can win, too,” Ferlito said.
Ron Biles, the gymnast’s father, said the comment was “insulting” and out of line, pointing out that being black is not normally in her favor.
Simone Biles didn’t seem as riled by the comments.
“It did bother her,” said her mother, Nellie. “I told her, ‘Don’t get roped into this’ and, ‘Don’t let those comments ruin this moment for you. Just be proud of your performance and outcome.’ People are entitled to their opinion. For her to go into this racism stuff is pointless, and she’s not going to address it.”
USA Gymnastics also spoke out about the incident.
“The United States is proud of its athletes and the success they achieved at our recent World Championships, especially Simone, who won the all-around title and brought home four medals,” wrote Steven Penny of USA Gymnastics. “USA Gymnastics is disappointed by the recent comments made by Carlotta Ferlito and apparently by the Italian Gymnastics 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.”
Carlotta Ferlito herself apologized for the comments.
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.
— Carlotta Ferlito (@CarlottaFerlito) October 8, 2013
Simone Biles will now try to put the incident behind her and focus on 2016, when she will enter the Rio de Janeiro Olympics as a favorite to win gold.