TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - University of Alabama gymnastics sophomore Melanie Banville has retired from gymnastics due to a pre-existing and ongoing back problem. A Scholastic All-American last season, Banville has withdrawn from the University and returned to her home in Long Sault, Ontario.
"Melanie struggled with this injury last year and took most the summer off from training to see if this would help make a difference," Alabama head coach Sarah Patterson said. "She feels she can no longer continue in the sport of gymnastics and, if she is not able to compete for the team, would rather finish her education closer to her home, her family and her friends. Melanie qualified for a medical exemption and could have continued her education here at the university on scholarship, but made the personal choice to return home. We wish her well and know that she will continue to be an excellent student."
A member of the 2004 Canadian Olympic Team, Banville made an immediate impact for the Crimson Tide as a freshman, winning the 2006 Southeastern Conference uneven bars title and earning All-American honors.
"Melanie's departure is obviously going to have an impact on our team," Patterson said. "It is difficult to lose an All-American and Olympian and we have no opportunity at this point in the year to replace her. This situation, in conjunction with signee Kayla Hoffman's decision to defer enrollment as she pursues her USA gymnastics career, leaves us in a precarious position in terms of team depth."
Patterson, in her 29th season coaching the Crimson Tide, is confident her team will rise to meet the challenges before them.
"I have learned during my coaching career that you face many obstacles each and every year and it is how you handle those difficult times that determines your success," Patterson said. "We just know our challenges ahead of time this year and, hopefully, can prepare for them now. It will provide an opportunity for someone new to step forward and help us be successful. The mission does not change - our goal is to be on the floor the last night of the season with a chance to win an NCAA championship."
Alabama has finished among the top four at the national championships an NCAA-best 21 times since 1983, including four NCAA titles and 10 top two finishes. Alabama placed third at last year's NCAA Championships.