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Gymnastics Ireland issues apology to Black girl skipped over by official distributing medals

The incident was criticised by Olympic champion Simone Biles at the weekend.

GYMNASTICS IRELAND (GI) HAS issued a public apology to a young gymnast and her family after she was seemingly skipped over in a medal ceremony after a competition. 

The “unreserved” apology comes after the organisation became embroiled in a racism row over the weekend, as a clip appeared to show the young Black girl being passed over by an official who was giving out the medals went viral on social media.

On Friday, GI issued a statement which said that the official involved in the incident had sent the girl and her family a handwritten apology, but it did not apologise at an organisational level. 

The video of the incident attracted international media attention over the weekend, and Olympic champion Simone Biles was amongst those to criticise the organisers of the event. 

She said that the clip “broke my heart”. 

Biles wrote on social media that she had sent a video message to the girl from the video after her parents reached out to the athlete. 

“There is no room for racism in any sport or at all,” Biles said. 

This morning, following widespread accusations on social media of discrimination, GI has said it is “deeply sorry” for the incident.

“On behalf of the Board and staff of Gymnastics Ireland we would like to unreservedly apologise to the gymnast and her family for the upset that has been caused by the incident at the GymStart event in March 2022,” the statement said. 

“What happened on the day should not have happened and for that, we are deeply sorry.

“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 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.

“We know now we need to do more. 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.

“We would also like to engage with the gymnast’s family and Sport Against Racism Ireland (SARI) to listen to any suggestions they have as to how our procedures can be improved in this regard.

“We are happy to see that the gymnast continues to participate in Gymnastics Ireland events and we look forward to welcoming her back to our future events also.

“Finally, we would like to make it absolutely clear that Gymnastics Ireland condemns any form of racism whatsoever.”

In the video, the girl can be seen watching as the official gives out medals to each of her peers (who appear to be white) in a lineup. 

The clip was taken at a GymStart event held in March of last year. 

The girl’s parents have alleged that the medal snub was an act of racial discrimination. 

In its statement on Friday GI claimed that it agreed to enter mediation talks with the parents, which were to be independently facilitated by Sports Disputes Solutions Ireland. 

It claimed that both parties agreed to a resolution that was reached through these talks in August of this year. 

GI said that on receiving the initial complaint from the parents, it engaged with the official involved, who it claims “accepted fully that what had happened had not been acceptable but stressed that it had not been intentional”. 

GI claimed that the official, “upon realising the mistake”, immediately “rectified it” and made sure the girl was presented with her medal before she left the field of play. 

“The official expressed deep regret for what they described as an honest error and requested the opportunity to apologise in person to the competitor and her family,” GI said. 

It stated that the official’s request to apologise in person was initially declined by the family. GI said that a handwritten apology from the official was then sent to the family.

Written by Eimer McAuley and posted on