Most recently, I’ve been thinking about the loss of a gymnast at my alma mater Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU). Melanie Coleman passed away on November 10 after falling off the bars and suffering from a spinal cord injury. It’s no surprise that SCSU has since rallied around all of its gymnasts, Melanie’s family, and even the alumni who competed at Southern. A memorial service on December 4 is not only for teammates and students, but includes the entire New Haven/Milford community to celebrate Melanie’s life and to remember that she was doing the sport she loved.
For me, the tragic incident has me reliving my practices at Southern – laughing with my teammates, chalk flying, music blaring, and loving gymnastics at this phase of my storied, injury-filled career. And understanding, that finally, being here at this moment, was what all these years of training and competing Club gymnastics was all about.
In Melanie’s case, she was able to train and compete with her older sister Tiffany for the last two seasons at Southern. Her mom shared, “She’s from a very large, loving family. There’s seven of us — we were the Coleman seven. We spent every day together for the past 20 years. We’re going to leave an empty space in our photos for her from now on.”
I send my love to her family, to Southern’s gymnasts, to my former teammates, to my former Coach Jerry, to Coaches Mary and Jason Fredricks, to my alma mater. Like you, know that I’m “heartbroken and stunned” by the tragedy of this incident and the reality that it could have happened to any of us.