College gymnast dies after suffering spinal injury during practice

Melanie Coleman, 20, was a decorated gymnast who was studying to become a nurse.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Alyssa Newcomb

An award-winning college gymnast died on Sunday, two days after she was hurt while practicing at Southern Connecticut State University, the school confirmed in a blog post.

Melanie Coleman, 20, suffered a spinal cord injury while practicing on the bars on Friday, according to the The Connecticut Post. Coleman, who was a junior and hoped to follow her two older sisters into nursing, died on Sunday.

An update on a GoFundMe page supporting the family confirmed the tragic news.

Southern Connecticut State University

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"Melanie gained her angel wings tonight and was able to give life to others. Please continue to pray for the entire Coleman family as they experience this unfathomable loss," it said.

Mary Fredericks, head coach of Southern Connecticut State University gymnastics, said in a statement the team was "heartbroken and stunned."

"She was an incredibly hard worker and a sweet-spirited young woman," she said of Coleman. "Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to her family at this time."

Melanie Coleman, 20, was a gymnast at Southern Connecticut State University.Southern Connecticut State University

Coleman, who had four siblings, was the gymnastics team captain at Jonathan Law High School in Milford, Connecticut, where she was named the most valuable player and was selected for all-state. She joined SCSU in 2017 as a freshman, where she got to compete alongside her older sister, Tiffany.

She continued to be a standout, both in the gym and in class. Last year, she was named an All-America Scholar-Athlete by USA Gymnastics and and was also recognized by Women's Collegiate Gymnastics Association as a Scholastic All-American.

Coleman also loved to share her gymnastics expertise with other up-and-coming gymnasts by volunteering as a youth instructor.

"My daughter loved learning from Melanie this summer. Our thoughts are with you in this difficult time," one person wrote on the family's GoFundMe page.

Another friend added: "I'll miss seeing her smile."

Late Monday, her family issued the following statement:

"Our lovely Melanie comes from an amazing large family. She was and will continue to be our light and love. She was a loving daughter, sister, cousin, teammate, and best friend. We are confident that her spirit, laughter, and humor will live on through the ones who loved her most, as well as through the gift of life to those who needed it most through organ donation. We are humbled by the outpouring support from our Milford community (our small town with a big heart) and beyond. She will be sadly and deeply missed by all those who crossed paths with her. The family asks for privacy during this time of healing."