What started as a simple floor routine, something she had done time and time again throughout her career, ended in a horrific scene of pain. Watching someone get significantly injured is always tough, but what happened at the NCAA Regional Semifinal meet in Baton Rouge, Louisiana will make you feel even worse.
Auburn Tigers senior Samantha Cerio was her team's floor exercise anchor and was on her first pass when it all happened. And really, everything looked to go as planned. She executed her front handspring double front pretty well. However, on her blind landing, something went horribly wrong.
Cerio suffered a devastating leg injury nobody would wish on even their worst enemies. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, who had preliminary knowledge of the injury, the two-time All-SEC gymnast broke both of her legs and dislocated both of her knees. Auburn coach Jeff Garba confirmed that Celio suffered two dislocated knees and multiple torn ligaments in both knees.
WARNING: This video is contains a graphic injury.
Auburn Gymnast Breaks Both Legs
As soon as the Auburn University gymnast landed, everyone inside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center knew it was bad. It just makes you cringe watching it on video. Imagine being there at the Baton Rouge regional final location and a star gymnast breaks her legs.
"It was pretty tough to watch," Auburn coach Jeff Graba told NOLA.com. "She's a trooper. The last thing she said was, 'Go help the girls.' The girls rallied around her. They're doing this for her right now."
Once the gruesome injury happened, LSU medical staff rushed to her and paramedics put air casts around both of her legs. She received a standing ovation as she was carted off on a stretcher. The 22-year-old is expected to have surgery on Monday with Dr. James Andrews.
A 5-foot senior from Huntersville, North Carolina, Sam Cerio is the perfect example of what a NCAA student-athlete is all about. She is an aerospace engineering major that made her the Southeastern Conference Co-Scholar Athlete of the Year for gymnastics and helped her land a job with Boeing in Seattle when she graduates in May.
Cerio was also a star gymnast, earning SEC All-Freshman Team honors in 2016 and All-SEC honors in 2017 and 2018 while competing on the bars, beam and floor.
It's beyond tragic to see all of the hard work she put in for years end with a terrible injury during a blind landing on a tumbling pass she's practiced since she was a little kid. And on Sunday, she announced her retirement from gymnastics on social media.
"Friday night was my final night as a gymnast. After 18 years I am hanging up my grips and leaving the chalk behind. I couldn't be prouder of the person that gymnastics has made me to become. It's taught me hard work, humility, integrity, and dedication, just to name a few. It's given me challenges and road blocks that I would have never imagined that has tested who I am as a person. It may not have ended the way I had planned, but nothing ever goes as planned.
"Thank you Auburn family for giving me a home and a chance to continue doing the sport that will always be my first love. I am honored to have had the privilege to represent the navy and orange AU for the past 4 years with my team by my side. Thank you for letting me share my passion with you. Thank you for letting me be a part of something bigger than myself.
"War Eagle Always."
--Auburn Gymnast Samantha Cerio
In time, Cerio's injury from the NCAA gymnastics regional will heal. However, everyone was cheering for her with the hashtag #stickitforsam until she recovers.
This article was originally published April 8, 2019.
Cerio's Recovery & Wedding
UPDATE (April 10, 2019): Samantha Cerio underwent surgery with Dr. James Andrews on her two dislocated knees and multiple torn ligaments in both knees. Auburn Gymnastics coach Jeff Graba said it was a successful.
"Sam's surgery lasted two and a half hours and was an extreme success," he wrote on Twitter. "We know the road for full healing is going to be a long and difficult one, but we are confident that she'll be back to make a complete recovery."
Although the timetable for recovery is unknown at the moment, Samantha Cerio has one goal in mind: Walk down the aisle at her wedding in two months.
"She wants to walk down the aisle and get married, and we're hoping she can do that," Graba told NBC News.
UPDATE (June 10, 2019): Just days after suffering a gruesome, career-ending injury, Auburn University graduate Samantha Cerio set out a goal: walk down the aisle at her own wedding. Nothing was going to stop her, either.
Then, it happened. Earlier this month, Cerio got married to fiancé Trey Wood at Fairhope Yacht Club in Alabama. She did exactly what she set out to do.
Not only did former Auburn gymnast Sam Cerio walk down the aisle, she even got to have a first dance with naval officer Trey Wood. This is absolutely amazing.
According to USA Today, Wood was "holding back tears" knowing everything Cerio went through after the serious injury.
"He's like, 'I saw you walking down the aisle, and I tried not to cry," she said.
Needless to say, a severe leg injury was not going to hold her back from having the wedding of her dreams.
Samanthia Cerio Now
Cerio graduated from Auburn in May 2019 (yes, she walked on stage!) and had a job waiting for her after graduation.
According to LinkedIn, she began working for Boeing as a structural analysis engineer. She became full-time in October 2020 and still holds that position.
Cerio seems to have owned her injury and the scars on her legs from surgery. She's put in the past, as she apparently enjoys biking.
From suffering a horrific injury as Auburn's star gymnast to becoming a successful aerospace engineer, Samantha Cerio won't let anything stop her.
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