NEW HAVEN — A former Jonathan Law High school all-state gymnast died Sunday following an accident two days earlier while practicing at Southern Connecticut State University.
Melanie Coleman, who was All-State and captain of the Jonathan Law gymnastic team, suffered a spinal cord injury while practicing on the bars. She was a 20-year-old junior majoring in nursing at the school and hoping to follow her two older sisters in that profession.
“It was a totally unexpected in its occurrence and its outcome,” said Tom Alberti, who coached and trained Coleman at the New Era Gymnastics on Sherman Street in Hamden. Coleman died at Yale-New Haven hospital Sunday.
The University confirmed Coleman’s death in a statement released Sunday.
“Her coaches and professors describe Melanie as a special young woman, who excelled both in the classroom and in the gym,” said University President Joe Bertolino.” “Our deepest sympathies are extended to her family and friends on this tragic loss.”
The University is offering free and confidential counseling services by 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.
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Southern Connecticut State University Athletics is saddened to learn of the passing of gymnastics student-athlete Melanie Coleman, 20, of Milford, Conn. Coleman passed on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019 after sustaining an injury during training on Friday, Nov. 8. • Melanie's family has set up a GoFundMe.com page, as well as a page that coordinates meal donations to the family at MealTrain.com. • Please consider donating to help support the Coleman family during this difficult time. Find the link in our bio. • #AlwaysAnOwl #AlwaysFamily #MC
“She was a wonderful athlete who always pushed herself to put forth a 100 percent effort,” said Tom Alberti, owner and Coleman’s former coach at the New Era Gym in Hamden. “She was just as wonderful a person.”
He employed her to teach, coach and host birthday events at New Era before she entered college.
“To know her was to like her,” Alberti said. “She was a role model all our students could look up to.”
Alberti said he coached Coleman for 10 years usually four-to-five days a week. He also couched her two older sisters, Valerie and Tiffany. All three were top gymnasts. Their names are embedded on a banner in his gym.
“Melanie obtained a level 10 in the country’s Junior Gymnasts Program,” Alberti said. “Being a level 10 is all you need to say about her abilities.”
He believes her injury and passing was an unfortunate accident.
“Melanie wasn’t at fault,” he said.
Nor does Alberti believe the sport should be implicated and disparaged by the accident, he said.
Coleman is one of five siblings. Her older sisters Valerie and Tiffany are both nurses, a profession for which Melanie also aspired.
While at Law, she received the MVP award and was selected by the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Gymnastic Association to participate with other state gymnast in the senior showcase at Estero, Florida. The Connecticut team finished first in the event.
Coleman was a 2017 graduate of Law and described in social media comments as “really smart.”
“She was a great girl, a great student and a great athlete,” said Fran Thompson, the principal at Jonathan Law. “Whenever she had the chance she would come back and talk to our gymnasts—offering support and guidance. That should tell you the type of person she was.”
Thompson said the school will provide counseling to students, alumni and “any friends for family Melanie has in the area who feel a need to discuss this.”
”We will make this available all week and beyond if necessary,” Thompson said. “Her family was very committed to this school and we will support them anyway we can.”
A gofundme page was set-up for the family. As of early Monday morning $22,599 was donated by 506 people. Additionally friends and family created a page to provide meals to the family with includes four other children. That site can be accessed at https://mealtrain.com/y2177y.
Just a few weeks ago Sam Tapper wrote an article for Southern News about Melanie and her experiences of participating with her sister, Tiffany, in gymnastics. The article is entitled “Playing Sports with Siblings Offer Unique Experiences.“
“We originally started at this gym, and we both kind of got to the same level, which was kind of funny,” Melanie Coleman told Tapper. “We were always at the same spot even though she was older than me, because I always wanted to play catch-up with her and go and be as good as she is or be better than her. There’s always that friendly competition.”
This year, Coleman was honored as a Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association Scholastic All-American, Tapper’s article notes. Though her older sister has since graduated, the help, support and advice she gets from her contribute to her ongoing success, the Southern News article reports.
“We live together still, I live at home,” Coleman told Tapper. “She’ll ask me, ‘how was practice?’ and still talk me through things and help me.”
“Coleman said there was a lot of chatter when she committed to Southern among people around her, worried that going to school with her sibling was not the best idea,” Tapper reported in his Southern News article..”They would even get texts from their mother telling them both to “be nice” to each other at school. Despite what people were saying, she says the decision she made was the right one,” his article reports.
“Some people at first thought it was a bad idea to be on the same team,” Coleman told Tapper for the article. “At first I was like, ‘this might be weird,’ because I’m close with her, but we don’t talk about everything, but it was definitely a good transition to go from high school to here because it was something that’s similar.”