Collegiate gymnast Melanie Coleman, 20, dies days after training accident

Gymnastic equipment from the gymnastic club Støkk in the Faroe Islands
A Connecticut gymnast died after a serious injury late last week. (Getty Images)

An all-state gymnast and junior on the Southern Connecticut State University gymnastics team died Sunday after an accident at practice two days earlier.

Melanie Coleman, 20, was practicing on the bars Friday at the SCSU facilities and suffered a spinal cord injury, the Connecticut Post reported.

“It was a totally unexpected in its occurrence and its outcome,” Tom Alberti, Coleman’s coach and trainer, told the Post. He said the junior beam specialist was a role model who “put forth 100 percent effort” and was “just as wonderful a person.”

University president Joe Bertolino released a statement, via the Post:

“Her coaches and professors describe Melanie as a special young woman, who excelled both in the classroom and in the gym. Our deepest sympathies are extended to her family and friends on this tragic loss.”

Coleman was a Level 10 gymnast, the highest level in the gymnastics Junior Olympics Program. She and her older sister Tiffany took their high school team to a runner-up finish at the state competition. She was named all-state, team MVP and team captain during her high school career.

Coleman was a nursing major and named an All-America Scholar Athlete by USA Gymnastics last spring.

Gymnastics has one of the highest injury rates among women’s sports with nearly 100,000 injured per year, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Athletes typically fracture their wrists, hands and fingers or experience back and knee pain. Life-threatening injuries in gymnastics are incredibly rare.

Earlier this year, Auburn gymnast Samantha Cerio went viral after dislocating both knees and tearing multiple ligaments in a horrific accident at the NCAA regional semifinals. Cerio told espnW this summer she believes it went viral because people don’t realize gymnasts in leotards and makeup doing “crazy incredible flips” can get injured in serious ways.

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