Simone Biles opens up about her first experience with racism: 'You just have to keep going for those little ones'

Gymnast says racist encounter overshadowed her history-making win

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Thursday 23 July 2020 16:53 BST
Simone Biles opens up about the first time she experienced racism

Simone Biles has opened up about her first experience with racism and how it overshadowed a high moment in her career.

On Thursday, the Olympic gymnast appeared on the Today Show, where she recalled encountering racism for the first time in 2013 when she was 16.

“I didn't really notice racism until 2013," Biles said. "I was on a world scene, and what made the news was, another gymnast saying that if we painted our skin black maybe we would all win because I had beaten her out of beam medal, and she got upset.

“And that [was] really the news, rather than me winning worlds.”

The 23-year-old was referring to Italian gymnast Carlotta Ferlito, who made the comment to her team member after Biles was awarded a bronze medal at the 2013 World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, according to Today.

Earlier in the competition, Biles had won the all-around title, making her the first black gymnast to become world champion.

“Other than that, it happens everyday,” Biles added. “And I feel like every black athlete or coloured athlete could say that they have experienced it through their career but we just have to keep going for those little ones looking up to us.

“It doesn't matter what you look like. You can strive for greatness, and you can be great."

The gold-medallist shared her own experience after recently voicing her support for the Black Lives Matter movement, explaining in a Vogue interview that she believes the recent global protests following the killing of George Floyd are “the start of change”.

“We need change. We need justice for the black community,” Biles told the outlet. “With the peaceful protests it’s the start of change, but it’s sad that it took all of this for people to listen.”

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