Cerio, a 22-year-old senior, dislocated both of her knees and broke both legs on her first pass as the team’s floor exercise anchor at the NCAA Regional Semifinal in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the outlet reported.
Cerio, who earned All-SEC honors in 2017 and 2018, received a standing ovation as she was taken out on a stretcher with air casts on both legs.
Cerio later wrote on Instagram that Friday was her “final night as a gymnast.”
Cerio has a long road to recovery but is already planning to get married in Alabama in June before heading to Seattle, where the aerospace engineering major has a job lined up with Boeing.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Samantha Cerio Dislocated Both Knees & Broke Both Legs
During her first pass on Friday, Cerio attempted a handspring double front, which requires a blind landing, but fell to the mat and screamed in pain as her legs bent backward and the crowd gasped.
A source familiar with her injuries told The Times-Picayune that Cerio dislocated both of her knees and broke both legs.
She was taken out of the arena on a stretcher with air casts on both of her legs.
The crowd gave her a standing ovation as she was escorted off the floor.
Her teammates rallied after Cerio’s injury and finished with the second-highest score they have had all season. Auburn advanced to the Regional Final Saturday but finished fourth behind LSU, Minnesota, and Utah.
2. Announcers & Crowd Were Left in Stunned Silence After Cerio’s Accident
“Let’s see how high she flies right here,” a commentator said as Cerio prepared to begin.
The announcers and the crowd of more than 10,000 people fell silent and the music was shut off after Cerio landed badly and screamed out in pain.
“Ooh,” a commentator exclaimed.
“I think she may be hurt,” one of the announcers said as Auburn staffers ran to help Cerio.
“You almost have to feel it or anticipate it, and I think she got there earlier than her body was ready and she hyperextended her knees,” a commentator said.
3. Coach Praises Cerio: ‘She’s a Trooper’
Auburn gymnastics coach Jeff Graba said that Cerio urged him to go help her teammates as he was tending to her after the injury.
“It was pretty tough to watch,” Graba told The Times-Picayune. “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.”
“I gave her a hug, told her I hugged her before she left and said we’d catch back up tonight,” he added.
“I circled everybody together and I was like, ‘We’re not going to do this,’ ” Auburn teammate senior Abby Milliet told AuburnTigers.com. ” ‘We’re not going to get sad. We can be sad later because it is sad. But we’re going to do what she would want us to do and light this fire. This is time for us to have a new fire. Sam wouldn’t want us to give up. She would fight harder.’ ”
Opposing LSU coach D-D Breaux told the Times-Picayune that Cerio’s injury “was really upsetting” to everyone involved.
“I saw the look on (our team doctor’s) face and he ran across the floor with lightning speed,” Breaux said.
4. Cerio Is an SEC Co-Scholar Athelete of the Year
Cerio, a native of Huntersville, North Carolina, was recently named SEC co-scholar athlete of the year for gymnastics, The Washington Post reported.
Cerio also earned All-SEC honors in 2017 and 2018. She was named to the All-SEC freshman team in 2016.
She is an aerospace engineering major who has accepted a job to work for Boeing in Seattle after she graduates in May.
5. Cerio Announced Her Retirement After Horrific Injury
Cerio took to Instagram to announce that she is retiring from gymnastics after breaking her legs.
“Friday night was my final night as a gymnast,” she wrote. “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,” she added. “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.”
She later thanked her well-wishers on Twitter.
“I wanted to reach out and thank everyone who has sent me encouraging messages,” she wrote. “I truly appreciate all of the support and prayers that I have have received! I am doing well right now and getting lots of rest! From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much!”