20-year-old black female swimmer Simone Manuel and Simone Biles, a 19-year-old black female gymnast, dominated in two sports in which most US competitors are white. These two phenomenal young women have been making history.
Three years ago when Simone Biles won the all-around title at the World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, Italian competitor Carlotta Ferlito told an Italian journalist, “next time, we should also paint our skin black, so then we could win, too.”
The journalist and Ferlito both laughed over the racist remark. However Biles’ parents said that the comments bothered her. Biles’ father, Ron, told USA Today at the time “I found it very insulting. … The racial comment was really out of line,” adding the irony of how “normally it’s not in her favor being black, at least not in the world that I live in.”
Now, 19-year-old Biles has won all-around gold at the Olympic Games — and the snarky comments coming from her critics has been replaced with cheers. Biles told CNN “I would like to be remembered as someone who never gave up. It’s like everything that has led me up to this moment has paid off, and it’s all been worth it. I have no regrets, and I’m just very excited, but then again, I do have two gold medals now, but it doesn’t change who I am. I’m still the same person.”
This year, the Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio noted that Biles, Olympic medalist Gabby Douglas and Olympic first-timer Laurie Hernandez make up the most diverse gymnastics team in United States history.
Manuel and Biles are role models for young athletes while expanding the image of the black female athlete. The two women share much more than a name: They represent a historic moment in Olympics history.
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