Lifestyle & Human Interest

Star College Gymnast Dies in Freak Training Accident


A talented gymnast at Southern Connecticut State University tragically lost her life Sunday after a training accident.

Melanie Coleman of Milford, Connecticut, was a former All-State gymnast and a Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association Scholastic All-American.

The 20-year-old college student had been recognized for her skills for years, according to a former coach, who told WSFB-TV in Hartford that she had risen to the highest level in the USA Junior Olympics Program.

However, Coleman wasn’t just known for her gymnastics prowess.

She also coached and volunteered, working to give back and make a difference in the lives of young athletes, according to WSFB.

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“We have probably 75 kids on the team, and they all looked up to her, wanting to follow in her footsteps, both because of her skill level and the gymnast that she was and she always took the time to talk to even the littlest kids,” her former coach, Tom Alberti, said.

The young woman’s kindness as both a student and a friend to the young boys and girls who looked up to her will leave a lasting impression, according to those who knew her best.

“To remember Melanie is to remember her joy and how happy that the sport would make her, and how much she loved teaching the children and giving what she had to make others better,” Alberti said.

Coleman died after sustaining a severe injury to her spine while training Friday at New Era Gymnastics in Hamden, Connecticut.

She was training on the uneven bars, an exercise she had done hundreds of times before, when she suddenly slipped, according to WSFB.

Coleman was rushed to Yale-New Haven Hospital, but she died Sunday as a result of the damage to her spine.

A GoFundMe page for the family described Coleman’s fall as a “tragic freak accident.”

“Please continue to pray for the entire Coleman family as they experience this unfathomable loss,” organizer Anna Andrich wrote on the page, which received more than six times its donation goal of $10,000.

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Coleman’s death left her community shocked and grieving.

“Her coaches and professors describe Melanie as a special young woman, who excelled both in the classroom and in the gym,” SCSU President Joe Bertolino, said in a statement, according to WSFB.

“Our deepest sympathies are extended to her family and friends on this tragic loss,” he added.

CBS News reported that Coleman’s family has received an outpouring of support from the people she impacted along the way during her years of gymnastics.

Her mother, Susan Coleman, told CBS that the gymnastic community is “holding us up” during the heartbreaking loss.

“She’s from a very large, loving family; there’s seven of us, we were the Coleman seven,” her mother told CBS. “We spent every day together for the past 20 years.”

“We’re going to leave an empty space in our photos for her,” she added.

Even larger than her immediate family is the family of athletes whose lives were changed by Coleman during her brief life.

Though she will be deeply missed, her legacy will live on in the hearts of those she has inspired and loved over the years.

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Laura Stewart was an associate story editor and news and lifestyle contributor for The Western Journal.
Laura Stewart was an associate story editor and news and lifestyle contributor for The Western Journal.
Phoenix, AZ