What would it take to beat black gymnasts in the Olympics? According to one Italian gymnast she’d have to change her skin color in order to take home a title.
An Italian gymnast and the spokesperson for the Italian Gymnastics Federation are apologizing for racially charged comments that were targeted at black U.S. women gymnasts, the Chicago Tribune reports.
During a video interview after an all-around final at the World Championships in Antwerp, gymnast Carlotta Ferlito said that in order to beat rivals like black U.S. gymnast Simone Biles, Italians would need to have black skin.
“I told Vanny (teammate Vanessa Ferrari) that next time we should also paint our skin black, so then we could win too.”
Ferlito placed 11th in the all-around competition.
Spokesperson David Ciaralli defended Ferlito’s statement on the Italian Gymnastics Federation Facebook page after accusations of racism where launched against the Italian gymnast.
“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).”
After receiving a grave amount of backlash, Ferlito apologized via Twitter Tuesday. She blamed nerves for getting the best of her during the interview.
“I want to apologize with the Americans girls,” she wrote. “I didn’t want to sound rude or racist. I love Simone and I’m a huge fan of USA gymnastics.
“I’ve made a mistake, I’m not perfect, I was too nervous and I didn’t think about what I was saying.
Ciaralli said that he came to Ferlito’s defense in order to move the conversation away from race. He also maintained that Ferlito’s comment was not of a serious nature.
“I know Carlotta. She is not racist. It was just a stupid answer, and she was joking,” the Ciaralli told the Tribune. “We had no intention of offending the United States, its gymnasts or black gymnasts.”
“Possibly in saying this, I made a mistake, and I am sorry.”
USA Gymnastics has expressed its disappointment over the comments and have contacted the Italian Gymnastics Federation for clarification.