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Family of black athlete snubbed in gymnast 'racism' row say apology is 'useless'

The mother of a black girl who was not given a medal at an Irish gymnastics competition has said the apology is “useless”.

A video has emerged showing a young black gymnast being ignored by an official handing out medals to a lineup of girls at an event in Dublin last year.

Her mother said watching it unfold in real time was “horrendous” and Gymnastics Ireland has now apologised “for the upset that has been caused”.

The governing body said on September 25 that it was “deeply sorry” and that it would work to make sure “nothing like this will happen again” and it condemned “any form of racism”.

But the girl’s mother has said the apology has only come, after 18 months after the original incident, “because the world wanted them to”.

“The apology is almost useless,” she said. “There was no empathy shown, I feel like it’s not true.

“It’s been 18 months and it seems like they were pressured to give me an apology. I cried for so long and then millions of people cried with me before I could get this.”

Every child at the GymStart event in March 2022 was given a participation medal but a young black girl was passed over.

Her mother called the incident “unbelievable” and believes her daughter was subject to racism.

“I didn’t believe in this day and time that this could happen,” she said. “It is painful to actually state the obvious – my daughter was the only black child in that competition, she stood out well, there was no excuse for what happened.

“She felt very upset about what happened. It was almost as if they blamed her for being black. It’s something very uncomfortable for a 10-year-old to go through.”

The mother emailed Gymnastics Ireland the day after the event hoping to get an “empathetic reply”.

“I wanted a show of support for my daughter,” she said. “And really what we wanted was a form of apology to show her. To say this is from them, to make her feel supported.”

Following a video of the incident gaining traction online in recent weeks, the family received a short letter addressed “to whom it concerns”.

The judge who passed over the black gymnast during the medal awarding sent an email to Gymnastics Ireland to pass on shortly after the incident.

In it she apologised for upsetting “you and your lovely child”, saying she was nervous and it was a genuine mistake.

“When I realised my mistake,” she said. “I ran back to get your lovely child a participation medal and apologise”.

But the family claims they never received the email and only saw it during a recent mediation session with the judge. Gymnastics Ireland did not send a representative.

The family says it was made clear in this mediation that their daughter being refused a medal was informed by racial bias but their main issue is with the governing body.

“They tried to cover up like it didn’t happen,” the girl’s father said. “They probably thought that with time they’ll forget about it. It was painful. You have to beg for an apology. I haven’t shown my daughter, to be honest, because it’s been well over a year,”

Gymnastics Ireland told the BBC it fully accepts it took them “far too long” to apologise and that the family was “let down”.

It acknowledged that the apology lacked empathy but that this was its first racism complaint ever.

It said: “The delays arose for a variety of reasons including human error, threats of legal action, intervention by third parties and our own understanding that this was a complaint from the parents against the official.”

After the incident the family’s case was taken up by the campaign group, Sport Against Racism Ireland.

Gymnast world champion Simone Biles also heard about the incident and got in contact with the family to support the girl.

In a video message she said: “I wanted to let you know that I saw how you were treated at your GymStart event recently. I was completely shocked. I want you to know that you deserve a medal just like the other girls.”

The girl said: “I was just jumping around all over the place because she’s the best gymnast ever and I was really happy to hear that she’s on my side. I’m still continuing. I’m going to keep striving hard.”



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