The girls line up after a gymnastics competition. They fidget happily in their leotards and wait for a referee to give them a participation medal. One girl after another gets a medal around her neck - except for one. Even though the official is standing right in front of her. Her family would still accuse the association of racism 18 months later because the only girl without a medal is black.
The incident took place in Ireland in March 2022. But the video is making waves again on X (formerly Twitter) these days. Even world-renowned US gymnast Simone Biles is getting involved.
Although the situation was captured on video, the Irish gymnastics association "Gymnastics Ireland" (GI) only apologized on Sunday, the family tells the British newspaper "Guardian". The association viewed the incident as a personal dispute between the girl's family and the referee that did not require any intervention. GI also confirms this initial assessment in the newspaper.
"It's unbelievable that a little girl is treated like this," the mother told the Guardian. "It's a systematic problem because if the gymnastics association publicly speaks out against it, that also means that they wouldn't take action if something like that happened again."
In addition, the referee is said to have apologized to the family in a personal letter immediately after the competition. The judge sent the letter to the GI gymnastics association, which was in contact with the family at the time. But GI never forwarded the letter to the family.
According to her own statement, the mother only found out about this months later in a dispute resolution. Instead, the association sent a short, impersonal note to the family on Sunday, addressed to "the responsible authority."
The girl's mother described this letter from the association as "senseless": "It took well over a year, even after millions of people around the world were outraged by the incident." The topic of racism also didn't come up in the letter, said the mother: "I wish they had said, for example: 'The next black child who wants to do gymnastics will be safe.' But none of that."
Gymnastics Ireland, however, said that the responsible official had asked for the opportunity to apologize to the participant and her family. This request was initially rejected. According to the association, the error was noticed and after the gymnastics competition in March 2022, the official ensured that the girl was presented with the medal before she left the indoor area.
The video has been seen and shared millions of times on social media in the past few days. Even gymnastics superstar Simone Biles expressed her solidarity with the little girl: "It broke my heart to see that, so I sent her a little video," the 26-year-old four-time Olympic champion wrote in a comment on X. "It There is no place for racism, no matter what sport or at all." Biles' teammate Jordan Chiles also commented on the video via X: "This is more than hurtful in many ways."
Sources: Twitter, "Guardian", With information from news agencies.