(LONDON) — Ireland’s gymnastics federation has issued an apology after footage emerged of a young Black gymnast being passed over for a medal at a presentation ceremony.
The viral video, which has re-emerged on social media, depicts an official awarding medals to a lineup of eager young gymnasts on a podium at a gymnastics event in Dublin in March 2022.
The official is captured handing out medals to all competitors while appearing to snub the only Black gymnast in the lineup before concluding the presentation, walking off with the last remaining medal in her possession.
“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,” Gymnastics Ireland, the sport’s governing body, said in a statement. “What happened on the day should not have happened and for that we are deeply sorry.”
“We identified the official concerned and informed the individual in question of the complaint. The official in question accepted fully that what had happened had not been acceptable but stressed that it has not been intentional. We are committed to ensuring nothing like this will happen again,” the statement continued.
The video, which has been viewed over 19 million times, has drawn widespread indignation online including seven-time Olympic medalist Simone Biles. Writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, Biles says the incident broke her heart, saying “when this video was circulating, her parents reached out. It broke my heart to see.”
“There is no room for racism in any sport or at all!” said Biles.
Biles said she reached out to the young gymnast last year in a private video message, expressing her support.
The now-viral incident occurred at the Gymnastics Ireland’s GymStart event in March 2022. Gymstart is described as a program “designed to allow any gymnast, regardless of age or ability, to take part in and enjoy gymnastics.”
In a statement sent to ABC News, Ireland’s Sports Ministry says the young girl was “badly let down.”
“Minister Catherine Martin and Minister of State Thomas Byrne have written to Gymnastics Ireland expressing their disappointment that an apology from Gymnastics Ireland was not immediately forthcoming after the incident occurred and they have asked that the sporting body confirm that measures are in place to avoid any such incidents occurring in future and to ensure that people from an ethnic minority background feel included in gymnastics,” Ireland’s Sports Ministry said.
Speaking anonymously to the Irish Independent, the mother of the young gymnast says the incident was upsetting for the family.
“We are often the only black family at gymnastic events and this has been very hurtful,” she said. “Now eight million people have seen the video. From Pakistan to Ethiopia, they can see this was wrong.”
The gymnast’s mother also expressed disappointment in Gymnastics Ireland’s apology, telling the Irish Independent that they received a “one-line” written apology from the official addressed “to whom it may concern.”
Gymnastics Ireland has yet to respond to ABC News’ requests for further comment.
Speaking to ABC News, Perry Ogden, CEO of Sport Against Racism Ireland (SARI) raises the question as to why the apology took so long.
“What has been most disturbing in this particular case is the time it has taken for due process to be carried out,” says Ogden. “It is now 18 months since the incident. The board of Gymnastics Ireland finally made an apology to the family on Sunday. This is unacceptable.”
“It is not fair on the family, nor the woman who failed to give the young girl a medal,” Ogden said. “The woman was wrong, but we understand she tried to make an apology to the family and this apology was withheld by the organization.”
Following the incident, the family of the young girl have requested for the video to be taken down.
The young gymnast continues to participate in Gymnastics Ireland events.
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