The Gymnastics Ireland governing body has apologized after a video resurfaced online of a young Black gymnast being skipped over and ignored by an official at a medal ceremony held last year.
A now-viral video of the March 2022 event has recently sparked backlash on social media. The judge is shown placing medals around the necks of the children one by one but then skipping past the only Black girl there.
The Black girl in the video is shown happy at first but then appears confused after the judge passes her by.
“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.”
“Please know that at all times, we have been acting in good faith and with the best intentions in trying to resolve this complicated 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 statement continued.
The organization also said, “We would like to make it absolutely clear that [GI] condemns any form of racism whatsoever.”
The incident took place during Gymnastic Ireland’s GymStart program, which says it aims to promote the sport in a safe and progressive environment for all. The apology marks the first time Gymnastics Ireland has addressed the incident publicly.
In an interview with The Guardian, the girl’s mother criticized both the judge’s behavior and Gymnastics Ireland’s 18-month silence on the matter.
“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 young gymnast eventually received her medal, and the judge involved denied intentionally skipping over her, The Guardian reported.
The video of the incident gained attention on social media, including from U.S. Olympic champion Simone Biles, who expressed her concern about how the young Black gymnast was treated. “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!!!!” wrote Biles on X (formerly known as Twitter).
Gymnastics Ireland’s statement also expressed a willingness to meet with the nonprofit Sport Against Racism Ireland to improve their procedures. They acknowledged the need to do more and mentioned appointing an independent expert to review their policies and procedures.
However, the statement did not provide specific details about the recommendations and their implementation.