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Gymnastics Ireland apologizes after Black athlete is snubbed in medal ceremony

Gymnastics Ireland apologizes after Black athlete is snubbed in medal ceremony
  • PublishedSeptember 25, 2023

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The governing body for gymnastics in Ireland has issued an apology after a video resurfaced appearing to show a judge ignoring the only Black girl at a medal ceremony last year. 

A now-viral video of the March 2022 incident has sparked outrage across social media and prompted a response from U.S. Olympic champion Simone Biles. The clip shows the judge placing medals around children’s necks one-by-one, but then skipping over the Black girl and continuing to address the other children. In the video, the Black girl is shown smiling at first, but then appears confused after the judge passes her by. The judge has not been publicly identified.

“What happened on the day should not have happened and for that we are deeply sorry,” Gymnastics Ireland said in a statement Monday. “We are also sorry that what has happened since that date has caused further upset.”

The statement continued: “Please know that at all times we have been acting in good faith and with the best of intentions in trying to resolve this very difficult and sensitive matter. We offered an in-person apology after the incident as we believed this was the best approach. Subsequently we felt mediation was the best way forward.” 

The video was taken during a series of events for Gymnastic Ireland’s GymStart program, which is aimed at encouraging people to join the sport by “creating a safe, progressive & fun environment for all,” according to the Gymnastics Ireland website. The apology is Gymnastic Ireland’s first public statement about the incident. The girl’s mother condemned the judge’s behavior and the entity’s 18-month silence in an interview with The Guardian.

“It’s unbelievable that you treat a little girl this way,” said the mother, whose name was withheld by the Guardian to protect her daughter’s privacy.  “It’s a systemic problem, because when you don’t speak out, the message is that you are happy for it to go on.” 

The girl received a medal eventually, and the judge involved has denied intentionally skipping over her, The Guardian reported. Gymnastics Ireland did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News. 

The video of the incident, shared Friday in a post on X (formerly known as Twitter), caught the attention of Biles, who wrote in a post, “when this video was circulating, her parents reached out. It broke my heart to see, so I sent her a little video. There is no room for racism in any sport or at all!!!!”

Gymnastics Ireland condemned racism in its statement and said it would like to meet with the nonprofit Sport Against Racism Ireland to learn how their “procedures can be improved.”

“We know now we need to do more,” the statement continued. “We are committed to ensuring nothing like this will happen again. We appointed an independent expert to review our policies and procedures earlier this year and a series of recommendations have resulted which we are fully committed to implementing so that this does not ever happen again.”

Gymnastics Ireland did not provide details about the recommendations or how they would be implemented. 



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