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Irish gymnastics body apologises after black girl shunned at ceremony

The official snubbed the girl, instead moving down the line to give other gymnasts their medals. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM MHDKSAFA/X

NEW YORK – The governing body for gymnastics in Ireland apologised for alleged racism on Monday, after a video circulating on social media showed an official who was handing out medals to young gymnasts skip over a black girl during the presentation.

The video posted of the March 2022 gymnastics event in Dublin showed the girl appearing to be eagerly waiting for her medal as she stood in a line with several other recipients. But the official snubbed the girl, who was the only black, instead moving down the line to give other gymnasts their medals.

The clip, which emerged last week, fuelled indignation online and drew condemnation from American seven-time Olympic medallist Simone Biles, who is black herself, among others.

“There is no room for racism in any sport or at all!!!!” she wrote on X on Saturday, and added that watching the video in which the girl looked bewildered “broke my heart”.

On Monday, Gymnastics Ireland issued a statement to “unreservedly apologise” 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 programmes, 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 chief executive of Sports Against Racism in Ireland, at the same time urging that sport bodies needed to do more to support diversity and inclusion.

In an earlier statement, issued on Friday, Gymnastics Ireland said it had received a complaint from one of its athletes’ parents accusing its official of racist behaviour.

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The group then acknowledged that a mistake was made, and added that the girl had received a medal before leaving the field where the awards ceremony was held. According to Gymnastics Ireland, the official also 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 apologise 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 said. She also called on Gymnastics Ireland to urge social media companies to take down the video.

In its apology on 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. NYTIMES, AFP