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Fair or Finessed: Are Black Athletes Getting Unequal Treatment?

In a world where humans get conditioned to climb the ranks and work at their best, Black people are often missing from the conversation and not from lack of trying.

The First female African-American all-around world champion and winner of the Most World Championship gold medals won by a female gymnast in history Simone Biles is arguably the greatest female gymnast. Despite consistently proving herself to be a force in her field, Biles is a Black woman who is currently fighting to get her just due. 

In her new virtual show on Facebook, Biles describes her complicated journey with receiving scores that reflect the amount of skill she puts into her routines. 

“I’m almost 99.9% sure if any other athlete were to do it besides me, they would give it correct credit. But since I’m already way ahead of everybody, they want to pull it back,” Biles said in the clip.

With records like the 24-year-old’s, it can be hard to understand why the young phenomena would have to make a case for receiving any amount of credit. The promotional clip ends with Biles stating that the scores given by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) lead her to believe that the judges don’t think it’s fair that Biles “wins all the time”.

Biles’ concern begs a number of different questions. Are the rulings given to Biles fair or a matter of leveling the playing field for lesser athletes? 

In 2019, Biles expressed her disdain with the board’s decision to give moves made by the gymnast a lower ranking to prevent other athletes from attempting the dangerous stunts.

“They keep asking us to do more difficulty and to give more artistry, give more harder skills,” she added. “So we do, and then they don’t credit it, and I don’t think that’s fair.”

Unfortunately, Biles’ story isn’t the first of its kind. Many athletic tricks are cause for penalization or are banned from being as a way of keeping people safe from harm. This doesn’t always stop athletes from attempting the moves. 

During the 1997-1998 Olympic season, former competitive figure skater Surya Bonaly successfully executed a backflip on one foot before ending in a split. No other ice skater has ever landed the move; not only because of it’s difficult nature, but because backflips have been banned from the sport since 1976.

Similar to Biles, Bonaly also noticed a difference in the level of tangible achievement she was awarded. When asked if she believed race played a factor, the figure skater mentioned noticing a lack of diversity in the sport. 

There aren’t many black figure skaters in the world. In France, it’s starting to get better,” said Bonaly. “If I were white, I would have been a gold medalist a long time ago.”

As the 2021 Olympics are approaching, fans everywhere are sure to be paying particular attention to the treatment given to today’s Black athletes. While the question of equality or exclusion still exists, one thing is for certain – Black talent speaks for itself and it can never be silenced. 

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