A Southern Connecticut State University gymnast died Sunday of spinal injuries she sustained two days earlier during practice.
Melanie Coleman, a 20-year-old junior nursing student from Milford, Connecticut, was practicing on the bars when the accident occurred, according to the Connecticut Post. She died at Yale New Haven Hospital. Her death was confirmed by the university.
"Her coaches and professors describe Melanie as a special young woman, who excelled both in the classroom and in the gym," President Joe Bertolino told the Connecticut Post. "Our deepest sympathies are extended to her family and friends on this tragic loss."
Tom Alberti, who coached Coleman and her two older sisters, both of whom are nurses, at New Era Gymnastics in Hamden, said the accident was "totally unexpected in its occurrence and its outcome. Melanie obtained a level 10 in the country's Junior Gymnasts Program. Being a level 10 is all you need to say about her abilities."
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Alberti told the paper he believes that, given her expertise, Coleman's death was accidental and she wasn't at fault.
"She was a wonderful athlete who always pushed herself to put forth a 100% effort," Alberti said. "She was just as wonderful a person."
Coleman, one of five siblings, was her high school's gymnastics team captain, most valuable player and an all-state choice, according to SCSU. She also was a volunteer youth coach. The university's athletic director said in a release that her death was "devastating to her coaches and teammates," while SCSU Coach Mary Fredericks said "we are heartbroken and stunned."
At Southern, Melanie Coleman followed in the academic and athletic footsteps of her sister Tiffany, who is two years older.
"Some people at first thought it was a bad idea to be on the same team," Melanie Coleman recently told Southern News. "At first I was like, 'this might be weird,' because I'm close with her, but we don't talk about everything. But it was definitely a good transition to go from high school to here because it was something that's similar."
Coleman added, "We live together still, I live at home. She'll ask me, 'How was practice?' and still talk me through things and help me."