The mother of a young black gymnast who was allegedly denied a medal at an Irish gymnastics event ceremony has deemed the apology she received as “useless.” A video recently surfaced, depicting the apparent racist treatment of the gymnast during a medal presentation at an event in Dublin last year.
The mother expressed her distress at witnessing the incident unfold, describing it as “horrendous.” Gymnastics Ireland issued an apology on Monday, expressing deep regret for the upset caused, acknowledging the need for more robust measures to prevent a recurrence, and condemning all forms of racism. However, the girl’s mother perceives the apology as insincere, suggesting it was prompted by external pressure.
The incident transpired at a GymStart event in March 2022, where children were awarded participation medals, but the young black girl was excluded from the podium. While the event judge later apologized for her “mistake” and vehemently denied racism, the family believes their daughter was indeed subjected to racial bias.
The family, concerned about potential racist abuse, has chosen to remain anonymous. They reached out to Gymnastics Ireland immediately after the incident, seeking an empathetic response and a show of support for their daughter. However, their request for an apology went unanswered for over a year.
While they eventually received a brief apology from the judge, they discovered that a more comprehensive email apology from the judge to the family had been withheld by Gymnastics Ireland. This revelation occurred during a recent mediation session with the judge, during which Gymnastics Ireland was notably absent.
The family’s primary grievance lies with the response of the sport’s governing bodies, which they accuse of attempting to cover up the incident. They view Gymnastics Ireland’s belated apology, issued after the video had gone viral, as inadequate.
The family calls for policy changes within Ireland’s Department of Sport to prevent similar incidents from affecting other children of diverse backgrounds. Gymnastics Ireland acknowledges its shortcomings in addressing the issue promptly and empathetically, citing various reasons for the delay in making an apology. It pledges to learn from this experience and take steps to ensure such incidents are handled more effectively in the future.
The family’s case gained attention through Sport Against Racism Ireland and received support from American civil rights activist Professor Harry Edwards and world champion gymnast Simone Biles. Biles sent a video message to the young gymnast, expressing her shock at the treatment and asserting that the gymnast deserved a medal like her peers. This message inspired the young gymnast to continue striving in the sport with renewed determination.