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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Irish gymnastics body apologizes after Black girl is shunned at ceremony

Gymnastics Ireland has apologized 18 months after a viral video showed a young Black gymnast seemingly snubbed when she and her teammates were being handed participation medals in March 2022.

By Emma Bubola

The governing body for gymnastics in Ireland apologized earlier this week after a video circulating on social media showed an official who was handing out medals to gymnasts skip over a young Black girl during the presentation.

The video of the March 2022 gymnastics event in Dublin showed the girl appearing to eagerly await her medal as she stood in a line with several other recipients. But the official passed by the girl, the video clip showed, instead moving down the line to give other gymnasts their medals.

The clip, which emerged last week, fueled indignation online and drew condemnation from the seven-time Olympic medalist Simone Biles, among others. “There is no room for racism in any sport or at all !!!!” Biles wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Saturday. She said that watching the video “broke my heart.”

On Monday, Gymnastics Ireland, the sport’s national governing body, issued a statement to “unreservedly apologize” to the young athlete and her family. “What happened on the day should not have happened and for that we are deeply sorry,” the statement said, adding that the group condemned “any form of racism.”

The episode comes as Black female athletes remain generally underrepresented in many sports programs, and it triggered calls for better policies to address racism and discrimination in the sports world.

“This was a wake-up call,” said Perry Ogden, the CEO of Sports Against Racism in Ireland, adding that sport bodies needed to do more to support diversity and inclusion.

In an earlier statement, issued Friday, Gymnastics Ireland said it had received a complaint from one of its athletes’ parents accusing their official of racist behavior. The group then issued a statement acknowledging having made a mistake, and adding that the girl had received a medal before leaving the field where the awards ceremony was held. According to Gymnastics Ireland, the official sent the family and the girl a written apology.

But on Saturday, the athlete’s mother told The Irish Independent, a news website, that the sports body had failed to publicly apologize for what had happened. The mother was not named in the news report, which said she feared the family being targeted with racist abuse, The Irish Independent reported. She also called on Gymnastics Ireland to urge social media companies to take down the March 2022 video clip.

In its apology Monday, Gymnastics Ireland said it had appointed an independent expert to review its policies and procedures, and said those recommendations would be followed.

“We are committed to ensuring nothing like this will happen again,” it wrote.

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