Tragedy struck a Southern Connecticut State University as a gymnast, Melanie Coleman died after a fall during practice.
Coleman fell during routine exercise on the uneven bars on Friday, according to university spokesman Ken Sweeten. Sadly, two days later, she died in the hospital.
“At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with Melanie’s family,” the university’s athletic director Jay Moran said Monday. “This has been devastating to her coaches and teammates.”
Coleman’s longtime personal coach, Thomas Alberti, called the incident “a complete accident.”
“It’s just not something that anybody can process,” he said.
Her distraught family said she was the “light and love” of a large family.
“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.
While a death in gymnastics is extremely rare, it’s happened before.
In 1988, 15-year-old Julissa Gomez became paralyzed after an accident on the vault. She died of complications from her injuries three years later.
I've been so unsettled about what happened to Melanie Coleman. Its everyone who's ever been involved w/ gym's worst fear, it can all too easily go so horrifically wrong. I hope that her family, & her team mates and coaches that actually witnessed the incident are able to heal ❤
— Lily Evans (@LilyEvans2002) November 11, 2019
About 100,000 gymnasts suffer injuries every year, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Common injuries include wrist fractures, cartilage damage and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears.
And in the past 20 years, UPMC said, gymnasts have started the sport at earlier ages and are now performing more difficult skills.
Coleman, 20, was pursuing a degree in nursing. She also taught part-time at Alberti’s gym, New Era Gymnastics.
“I was her full-time coach for 10 years,” Alberti said. “She was always a leader at my gym. She was the leader that everyone looked up to.”
Alberti said Coleman taught students ranging from ages 2 to 15. Melanie Coleman came from a family of gymnasts. Her mother competed, as did her two older sisters.
“To her, it wasn’t about trying to get a better score. What made her a great gymnast is also what made her a great person,” Alberti said. “She had a desire to help everyone around her.”
Jerry Nelson, who recently retired as head coach at Southern Connecticut State, said Coleman was a joy to those around her.
I don’t know much about the SCSU gymnastics team nor did I know who Melanie Coleman was until tonight. Nevertheless I am heartbroken for her family, friends, and other loved ones. It’s such a terrible thing to lose someone so young. Wishing them comfort during this time❤️
— Em (@emwatchesgym) November 11, 2019
“Melanie was an extraordinary young lady that positively touched all that knew her,” Nelson said in a statement. “Melanie was a true team player, a hard worker, and a true pleasure to coach.”
Coleman is survived by her parents and four siblings. By Tuesday morning, a GoFundMe account for the Coleman family has raised more than $53,000.