Melanie Coleman, a junior at Southern Connecticut State University, died over the weekend, two days after enduring a fatal fall in gymnastics practice. The 20-year-old suffered a spinal cord injury while practicing on the bars at New Era Gymnastics in Hamden, Connecticut, on Friday. She passed away on Sunday at Yale New Haven Hospital.
Friends and family have described the incident as a “tragic freak accident”.
Coleman’s former coach of ten years, Thomas Alberti, told the Hartford Courant that the injury occurred after Melanie slipped from the uneven bars. He described the accident as “unexpected”, and said it occurred during a routine training exercise. It is unclear which skill Melanie was performing when she fell.
University spokesman Patrick Dilger said the precise cause of death and “circumstances of her slipping” have not yet been determined. “We’re looking into all aspects of this, obviously. At this stage, it looks like all protocols were followed,” said Dilger.
Melanie Was a Level 10 Gymnast
Melanie was a level 10 gymnast, which is the highest level in the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympics Program. Alberti described her as a gymnast of “discipline” who had a “desire and love for the sport.”
He added, “She was a wonderful athlete who always pushed herself to put forth a 100 percent effort. She was just as wonderful a person.” Alberti was not present when Coleman was injured, but arrived soon after, according to NBC.
Coleman was one of five siblings. Speaking to the New York Post, Melanie’s mother, Susan, shared, “She’s from a very large, loving family — there’s seven of us, we were the Coleman seven… We spent every day together for the past 20 years. We’re going to leave an empty space in our photos for her.”
A statement released by Melanie’s uncle on behalf of the entire family on Monday read, “She was a loving daughter, sister, cousin, teammate, and best friend. We are confident that her spirit, laughter, and humor will live on through the ones who loved her most, as well as through the gift of life to those who needed it most through organ donation.”
A GoFundMe Page Was Launched After the Accident
After the incident occurred, a GoFundMe page was created in support of Melanie. The page’s creator, Anna Andrich, wrote on the site, “Melanie was in a tragic freak accident and is in critical care. Melanie and her family need your support.” On Sunday, the author updated the page, writing, “Melanie gained her angel wings tonight and was able to give life to others. Please continue to pray for the entire Coleman family as they experience this unfathomable loss.”
As of Monday evening, the page had accrued more than $46,413 in donations, with over 998 donors.
Melanie was a nursing major at New Haven College. Last year, the 20-year-old was named an All-American Scholar Athlete by USA Gymnastics.
In high school, Melanie received the MVP award and was selected by the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Gymnastic Association to participate with other state gymnasts in the senior showcase, in which Connecticut finished first. The high school’s athletic director told the New Haven Register, “She made All-State and SCC three times while she was here… She was also the captain of our outdoor track team.”
Coleman was voted one of two “most talented” seniors by her classmates in high school.
In a statement posted on the SCSU Owls website, head coach Mary Fredericks wrote, “She was an incredibly hard worker and a sweet-spirited young woman. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to her family at this time. The SCSU Gymnastics team will miss her greatly though she will always be with us.”
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