A college gymnast died after slipping off the uneven bars during practice

  • Melanie Coleman, a nursing student and gymnast at Southern Connecticut State University, died on Sunday, two days after sustaining a spinal cord injury while training on the uneven bars.
  • Coleman’s head coach, Mary Fredericks, said the team was “heartbroken and stunned” over her death.
  • Southern Connecticut State President Joe Bertolino called 20-year-old Coleman a “special young woman, who excelled both in the classroom and in the gym.”
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A 20-year-old gymnast at Southern Connecticut State University has died after slipping off the uneven bars during a training session last week.

Melanie Coleman, of Milford, Connecticut, was training at New Era Gymnastics in Hamden, Connecticut, on Friday when she fell and experienced a serious spinal cord injury, her mother, Susan Coleman, told CBS News.

She was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital and died of her injuries on Sunday.

According to CBS affiliate WFSB-TV, Coleman had used the uneven bars to train thousands of times.

Coleman, a nursing major in her junior year at Southern Connecticut State, had been named a Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association Scholastic All-American this year, and in high school, she was her team’s captain and an All-State gymnast.

Coleman’s mother said that her daughter trained and volunteered at New Era, and was following her two older sisters’ footsteps in becoming a nurse.

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

Coleman’s head coach, Mary Fredericks, said the team was “heartbroken and stunned” by the gymnast’s death.

“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,” she said in a statement to the school’s athletic department.

Her former club coach from high school, Tom Alberti, told WFSB-TV that Coleman achieved the highest level of skill in the USA Junior Olympics Program, a level 10.

“Every gymnast, 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. She always took the time to talk to even the littlest kids,” Alberti said.

“Our deepest sympathies are extended to her family and friends on this tragic loss,” Southern Connecticut State President Joe Bertolino said. He called Coleman a “special young woman, who excelled both in the classroom and in the gym” in a statement to WFSB-TV.

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