A college gymnast from Milford, Connecticut, has died after sustaining a serious injury during gymnastics training last Friday, according to a statement from Southern Connecticut State University.
Melanie Coleman, 20, died Sunday at Yale New Haven Hospital, two days after suffering a spinal cord injury during practice, according to The Associated Press.
The accident happened at New Era Gymnastics in Hamden, where SCSU’s team trains one day per week, according to Thomas Alberti, the owner and manager of the gym and Coleman's former club coach.
He was not there where Coleman was injured but arrived soon after and said she slipped off the bars during a freak accident.
“She was looked up to by every gymnast in the gym," Alberti said. "They all looked up to her, they wanted to be with her, they loved when she was teaching them. So, she was very well liked by everyone, staff, gymnasts, parents, everybody involved.”
University President Joe Bertolino called Coleman's death a “tragic loss.”
“Her coaches and professors describe Melanie as a special young woman, who excelled both in the classroom and in the gym,” Bertolino said in a statement. “Our deepest sympathies are extended to her family and friends on this tragic loss.”
Coleman was a junior nursing student at the New Haven school.
"We are heartbroken and stunned by Melanie's passing," head coach Mary Fredericks said in a statement posted on the SCSU Owls website. "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."
Coleman was a former All State gymnast at Jonathan Law High School in Milford, Connecticut.
Alberti said Coleman attained the highest level in the USA Junior Olympics Program.
Coleman was also captain of the Jonathan Law gymnastics team and was named a Women's Collegiate Gymnastics Association Scholastic All-American earlier this year.
Jonathan Law Principal Fran Thompson said after Coleman graduated in 2017, she would come back to work with the young gymnasts at the high school.
"They’re missing out on a role model," Thompson said. "They're missing out on a kind spirit and a leader. You know, doing, pursuing what you love to do and so while she wont be here to share that with future students, her legacy will live on."
SCSU is offering counseling services.