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US gymnast Simone is world champ, Italian challenger makes racist remark

Simone Biles, centre, picks up gold in the floor exercise competition on her way to becoming the first black world champion
Simone Biles, centre, picks up gold in the floor exercise competition on her way to becoming the first black world champion
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An Italian gymnast has provoked outrage after claiming the sport's first black world champion only won because of her skin colour.

American Simone Biles, 16, made gymnastic history when she became the new all-round world champion on Friday.

But moments after Carlotta Ferlito finished fifth, she told a journalist that she had joked with  teammate Vanessa Ferrari, who come fourth, that they should paint themselves black next time to stand a chance of winning. 

The 18-year-old told the interviewer: 'I told Vanny (Ferrari) that next time we should also paint our skin black, so then we could win too.'

She quickly took to twitter to apologise for the comments made on Friday at the World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium.
On Tuesday, Ferlito tweeted: 'I want to apologise 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.'

But the row has now escalated after an official in the Italian team tried to justify the comments in a posting on Facebook, according to the Chicago Tribune.

USA Gymnastics has demanded an explanation of subsequent comments made by an Italian Gymnastics Federation official David Ciaralli. 

According to the Chicago Tribune, he said: '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 colour (well-known for power) while penalising the more artistic Eastern European style that allowed Russians and Romanians to dominate the sport for years.'

He apparently added: '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'.

Mr Ciaralli has also apologised for his remarks, adding that they were not intended to reflect the officical view of the Italian Gymnastics Federation.

But USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said he was deeply disappointed by the comments, adding that racism should be stamped out of gymnastics.

The row has not taken the shine off the stunning victory by Simone Biles.

Speaking after winning the all-round competition got the best gymnast across a series of disciplines - including the floor, uneven bars - she said: 'It hasn't sunken in yet [that I am the world champion].

'I am sure it will eventually, but we still have finals so we can't get too excited about it yet. But I know what I have done is a huge accomplishment and I am very happy.'