CHICAGO — USA Gymnastics is asking Italian gymnastics officials for an explanation of the racially charged comments that were aimed at new world all-around champion Simone Biles.
Italy’s Carlotta Ferlito apologized Tuesday on Twitter for comments she made at the world championships in Belgium. After fellow Italian Vanessa Ferrari and Ferlito finished fourth and fifth on balance beam — just behind Biles — Ferlito said with a laugh, “I told Vane that next time we’ll have our skin black also so we can win, too.”
Biles won the all-around title earlier in the week, the first black gymnast to become world champion. At last year’s London Games, Gabby Douglas became the first black woman to win the Olympic all-around title.
On Tuesday, Ferlito tweeted, “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 then 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.”
In trying to explain Ferlito’s remarks, a federation spokesman may have further inflamed the issue. A post on Facebook by “Federazione Ginnastica d’Italia,” which links to the federation’s page on the social networking site, attributes different athletes’ abilities to race.
David Ciaralli, the federation spokesman, acknowledged to the Chicago Tribune that he wrote the post.
“Possibly in saying this, I made a mistake, and I am sorry,” Ciaralli told the Tribune. “What I said was my thoughts, not the official thoughts of the federation.”
USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny still called for an explanation.
“USA Gymnastics is disappointed by the recent comments made by Carlotta Ferlito and apparently by the Italian Gymnastics Federation,” Penny said in a statement. “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.” “