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Italian Gymnast Apologizes for Racist Remark at Worlds

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USA TODAY
October 10, 2013 Thursday
FINAL EDITION
SPORTS; Pg. 2C
400 words
Race remark 'out of line,' parent says
Kelly Whiteside, @KellyWhiteside, USA TODAY Sports

Once again, racist comments took hostage a proud moment for a 16-year-old American gymnast. In this case, the moment belonged to Simone Biles, who became the first black woman to win a world all-around title last week.

After Biles won bronze on the balance beam at worlds in Antwerp, Belgium, Italian gymnast Carlotta Ferlito said in a video interview, "I told (teammate Vanessa Ferrari) that next time we should also paint our skin black so then we can win, too."

"I found it very insulting," Biles' father, Ron, told USA TODAY Sports. "The racial comment was really out of line."

Biles mother, Nellie, said she had a talk with her daughter the last two days when the family learned about the comments. "It did bother her," Nellie 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 she's not going to address it."

USA Gymnastics officials said Wednesday that they planned to contact the Italian federation about the incident. Ferlito apologized via Twitter on Tuesday: "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 added, "I've made a mistake, I'm not perfect ... I didn't think about what I was saying. I'm just a human. I'm so so sorry."

USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny released a statement Wednesday: "The United States is proud of its athletes and the success they achieved at our recent world championships, especially Simone. 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."

Last summer in the London Games, Gabby Douglas, at 16, became the first black woman to win the Olympic all-around gold medal. She received criticism on Twitter for her straightened hair, a racially sensitive issue in the African-American community.

"I don't know where this is coming from," she said then. "What's wrong with my hair? I just simply gelled it back, put some clips in it and put it in a bun. Are you kidding me? I just made history. And you're focusing on my hair? I just want to say, we're all beautiful inside out."

October 10, 2013

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