College gymnast dies following practice accident in Connecticut

NEW HAVEN, Connecticut -- An accomplished gymnast at Southern Connecticut State University has died following a serious spinal cord injury suffered in a training accident.

Melanie Coleman, 20, of Milford, Connecticut, was training Friday at New Era Gymnastics in Hamden when she was injured, said her mother, Susan Coleman.

She was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital and died Sunday.

"She's from a very large, loving family; there's seven of us, we were the Coleman seven," Susan Coleman said. "We spent every day together for the past 20 years."

University President Joe Bertolino called Coleman's death a "tragic loss."


She was a junior nursing student at the New Haven school. She volunteered at the gym where her accident occurred.

"We are heartbroken and stunned by Melanie's passing," head coach Mary Fredericks said. "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.

"At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with Melanie's family," Director of Athletics Jay Moran said. "This has been devastating to her coaches and teammates and we hope to support them in this very difficult time. Melanie was a very bright student, an excellent athlete and involved member of the Southern Connecticut community. The entire Southern athletics family is greatly saddened by her loss."

Her former club coach, Tom Alberti, said she attained the highest level in the USA Junior Olympics Program.

Coleman was also captain of the Jonathan Law gymnastics team and was named as a Women's Collegiate Gymnastics Association Scholastic All-American earlier this year.

People the family has met by traveling to gymnastics events around the country are giving support that is "holding us up," Coleman's mother said.

She described her children, which also include two sons older than Melanie, as "inseparable."

"We're going to leave an empty space in our photos for her," Susan Coleman said.

University officials say free and confidential counseling services may be accessed through visiting Engleman Hall, Room B219, or by calling 203-392-5475 to set up an appointment. For more information on Counseling Services, please visit: www.southernct.edu/counseling. Any student needing support may also seek out residence life staff or the Dean of Students' office.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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