Italian gymnast Carlotta Ferlito apologized via Twitter for a comment after the balance beam final at the World Championships on Sunday.
Ferlito finished fifth on the event. Italian teammate Vanessa Ferrari finished fourth. American Simone Biles won bronze after her initial score was upgraded due to a successful scoring inquiry into her difficulty score. If her score was not changed, Biles would have been fifth and Ferlito and Ferrari moved up on spot.
“I told Vane (Ferrari) that next time we’ll have our skin black also so we can win, too,” Ferlito said with a laugh afterward, according to The Associated Press.
Here’s the apology (translated from Italian) posted on Ferlito’s unverified Twitter account:
Italian gymnastics federation spokesman David Ciaralli also apologized for Facebook comments about the matter, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Ciarali wrote, “Carlotta was referring to a trend in gymnastics at this moment, which is going towards a technique that opens up new chances to athletes of color (well-known for power)” while penalizing the more artistic Eastern European style that allowed Russians and Romanians to dominate the sport for years.
“Why aren’t there blacks in swimming?” Ciaralli wrote. “Because the sport doesn’t suit their physical characteristics. Is gymnastics becoming the same thing, to the point of wanting to be colored?”
Ciaralli told the newspaper he wanted to “move the discussion from race to technique.”
“Possibly in saying this, I made a mistake, and I am sorry,” Ciaralli told the newspaper. “What I said was my thoughts, not the official thoughts of the federation.”
“USA Gymnastics is disappointed by the recent comments made by Carlotta Ferlito and apparently by the Italian Gymnastics Federation,” USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said in a statement, according to the newspaper. “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.”
USA Today spoke to Biles’ parents on Wednesday.
“I found it very insulting,” Biles’ father, Ron, told the newspaper. “The racial comment was really out of line.”
“It did bother her,” Nellie, Simone’s mother, said. “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 (Simone) is not going to address it.”
U.S. gymnastics wraps up most successful World Championships ever