The parents of a young black gymnast who was ignored at a medal ceremony have slammed Gymnastics Ireland for its “unnecessary” apology.
The sporting body sparked a row over racism when footage showed the black girl being denied a medal while her white peers were all receiving prizes at an event in Dublin last year.
The ten-year-old’s furious parents said they felt their daughter was being “blamed for being black”.
Footage from the moment in March 2022 quickly went viral and was condemned by critics, including Olympic champion Simone Biles, who called the incident “heartbreaking.”
Around 18 months after the incident, Gymnastics Ireland said it was “deeply sorry” for the medal being withheld. But the girl’s parents said they were only apologizing “because we cried for so long.”
The parents (pictured) of a young black gymnast who was ignored at a medal ceremony have slammed Gymnastics Ireland for its “unnecessary” apology.
The little girl (center) walks forward excitedly waiting to receive the medal, before the official moves on to the next gymnast in the line-up.
The girl’s mother said BBC: “It’s painful to state the obvious: my daughter was the only black child in this competition, she stood out well.” There was no excuse for what happened. She was very upset by what had happened.
“It was almost like they were criticizing her for being black. This is a very uncomfortable thing for a ten year old to experience.
His father added: “They tried to hide as if nothing had happened. They probably thought that with time we would forget about it. It was painful. You need to ask for an apology.
The incident happened at the GymStart event in Dublin last March, when all the children except the black girl received participation medals on the podium.
Gymnastics Ireland on Monday apologized “for the upset caused” and said it would ensure “nothing like this happens again” while condemning “any form of racism”.
But the girl’s mother called the apology “so unnecessary” and said she hadn’t even shown it to her daughter “because it’s been over a year.”
She added: “They only sent us an apology because the world wanted it, because we cried for so long.
The girl’s mother told the BBC: “It was almost like they were criticizing her for being black.”
The girl was denied a medal while all her white peers received awards
“We kind of told him that no matter what color your skin is, people shouldn’t treat you any different.”
The mother said she emailed Gymnastics Ireland the day after the incident in the hope of getting an apology for her daughter. But it was only after 12 months that the family received a short letter of apology from the judge present at the event.
The BBC discovered she wrote a different apology shortly after the event, which she sent to Gymnastics Ireland to deliver to the family. The family says they never received the email and only saw it last month.
Negative reactions to the video continued to erupt across the internet.
Team USA gymnast Simone Biles, who sent a video of support to the girl after her parents contacted her, wrote on X: “There is no place for racism in any sport or in any sport.”
Ms Biles, who made history by becoming the first black woman to win the all-around title at the 2013 World Championships, has also experienced racism in sport and has expressed her desire to tackle it.
After being targeted by athlete Carlotta Ferlito, who finished fifth behind Ms. Biles in the competition, Biles spoke out that all athletes of color shared similar experiences.
“You just have to keep going for these little ones that look up to us,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter what you look like. You can strive for greatness and you can be great.
Olympic champion Simone Biles condemned the “heartbreaking” incident and said she had sent a video of support to the girl.
In her video addressed to the young gymnast, Ms. Biles said: “I wanted to let you know that I saw how you were treated recently at your GymStart event.
“I was completely shocked and wanted to let you know that you deserved a medal like all the other girls.
“I know you’ve worked incredibly hard at this sport and I wanted to tell you I’m rooting for you from here. I send you my best wishes and know that there are many of us here to support you.
Olympic silver medalist, Team USA member Jordan Chiles, also called the incident “beyond hurtful in so many ways.”
She hinted that she also wanted to get in touch with the young sports star, asking the gymnastics community to help identify him.
After resurfacing, the clip was called “shameful” and “difficult to watch” by X users.
On Monday, Gymnastics Ireland released a statement saying: “On behalf of the Board and staff of Gymnastics Ireland, we would like to apologize unreservedly to the gymnast and her family for the upset caused by the incident which occurred during the GymStart event in March. 2022.
“What happened that day should not have happened and we are deeply sorry.
“We are also sorry that what has happened since then has caused further upheaval.”
The governing body said it made an “apology in person” and then decided “mediation was the best course of action”.
He continues: “We now know that we must do more. We are determined to ensure that nothing like this happens again.
“We appointed an independent expert to review our policies and procedures earlier this year and a series of recommendations resulted that we are fully committed to implementing so that this never happens 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 on how our procedures can be improved in this regard.”
“We are pleased to see that the gymnast continues to participate in Gymnastics Ireland events and we look forward to welcoming her back at our future events.
“Finally, we would like to make it clear that Gymnastics Ireland condemns any form of racism whatsoever.”
The sports body said it accepted it had taken “far too long to issue an apology” and that the delays were due to “human error, threats of legal action, third party intervention and our own understanding that it was a complaint from the parents against the official’.