Ken Sweeten, a spokesperson for Southern Connecticut State, confirmed to CNN Monday that Coleman fell during what he described as a “routine training exercise” on the uneven bars.
“At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with Melanie’s family,” the university’s athletic director, Jay Moran, said in a statement Monday. “This has been devastating to her coaches and teammates and we hope to support them in this very difficult time.”
Coleman’s longtime personal coach, Thomas Alberti, called the incident “a complete accident” Monday. “It’s just not something that anybody can process.”
In addition to pursuing a degree in nursing, Coleman also taught part-time at Alberti’s gym, New Era Gymnastics.
“I was her full-time coach for 10 years,” Alberti said. “She was always a leader at my gym. She was the leader that everyone looked up to.”
Alberti said Coleman taught gymnastics to all levels of students, from 2-year-olds to 15-year-olds. He described the her as dedicated, with a pure love of the sport. “She had a desire to help everyone around her.”
Coleman came from a family of gymnasts. Her mother competed, as did her two older sisters.
“To her it wasn’t about trying to get a better score,” he said.
“What made her a great gymnast is also what made her a great person,” Alberti added. He said Coleman modeled “love for whatever it is that you’re dreaming about doing, and giving that back to the people around you.”
Jerry Nelson, Southern Connecticut’s recently retired former head gymnastics coach, also praised Nelson’s commitment to others.
“Melanie was an extraordinary young lady that positively touched all that new her,” Nelson said in a statement. “Melanie was a true team player, a hard worker, and a true pleasure to coach. I’m extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to coach her.”