Simone Biles Opens Up About Experiencing Racism, Says Still Training ‘as If’ Olympics Will Happen
“It happens every day, and I feel like every Black athlete or colored athlete can say that they've experienced it through their career," Simone Biles said
"I didn't really notice racism until 2013," the olympian, 23, said during a conversation with Today’s Hoda Kotb Thursday. "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 incident Biles referred to was at the 2013 World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, where she made history by becoming the first Black woman to win the all-around title.
Afterward, Italian gymnast Carlotta Ferlito said in an interview that she told a teammate, "Next time we should also paint our skin black so then we can win, too."
"Other than that, it happens every day, and I feel like every Black athlete or colored athlete can say that they've experienced it through their career," Biles added. "But you 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."
Biles, the most decorated gymnast in history, also opened up to Kotb about how training is going for the postponed Olympics. The International Olympic Committee announced in March that, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would be rescheduled for the same time in 2021.
In addition to dealing with the uncertainty surrounding the timing of the Summer Games, Biles shared that she and her fellow athletes have had to take several health precautions while training, including setting time aside to clean the equipment.
"Training has been a little bit different," she said. "It's been kind of crazy, but going in every day knowing and hoping that 2021 is on the horizon keeps me going. It's just, we don't know what's going to happen, so we train as if."
“Obviously it was the right decision, but to have it finalized — in a way, you feel defeated because you’ve worked so hard," she said.