Carlotta Ferlito, Italian Gymnast, Says She’d Win if She Had a Black Face

    October 12, 2013

The typical reaction a competitor has when their performance isn’t as strong as desired is that they need to work harder, but not Italian gymnast Carlotta Ferlito. Her angry reaction to not outdoing her competition? That she should paint her face black because it would help her win.

Yes, you read that correctly. After Ferlito placed fifth behind American Simone Biles, Ferlito was pretty upset and made a rude comment directed at Biles, who became the first black gymnast to become world champion earlier in the week.

“Next time we’ll have our skin black also so we can win, too,” Ferlito said.

Ferlito’s comment was met with outrage, so she issued an apology via Twitter the next day.

While the issue could have been over (mostly) at that point, an Italian official made matters worse with a comment he made taking up for Ferlito on Facebook.

“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,” David Ciaralli, the federation spokesman, said on Facebook.

The Italian spokesman didn’t stop there, and if he was trying to outdo Ferlito’s comment in terms of racial insensitivity, he succeeded.

“Why are there no black swimmers? Because their physical features don’t suit the sport.” Ciaralli also said that black people “may not have some of the necessities to be, let’s say, a field manager or a general manager” and that they aren’t good swimmers because they “don’t have the buoyancy.”

Ciaralli apologized, too, kind of.

“Possibly in saying this, I made a mistake, and I am sorry,” Ciaralli told the Chicago Tribune. “What I said was my thoughts, not the official thoughts of the federation. I know Carlotta. She is not racist. It was just a stupid answer, and she was joking. We had no intention of offending the United States, its gymnasts or black gymnasts.”

Some apology. The Italian Gymnastics Federation released its own statement of apology, but said that considering Ferlito’s “moral qualities,” her comments were simply “misunderstood.”

Image via YouTube