Auburn gymnast staying positive through horrific injuries: 'This is a small setback'

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Samantha Cerio says her knee injuries are just "a small setback." (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Samantha Cerio says her knee injuries are just "a small setback." (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Auburn gymnast Samantha Cerio’s horrific accident during her final competition catapulted her to reluctant viral fame, but she’s ready to move on from gymnastics and start the rest of her life.

Cerio dislocated both of her knees and tore multiple ligaments while landing a handspring double front at a regional competition last week, and a video of the landing went viral. But Cerio isn’t the type of woman to let any of that get in her way. She gave her first interview since the accident to “Today” on Monday, and she continued to have an unfailingly positive attitude about what’s happened to her.

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Seated in a wheelchair and wearing a big smile, Cerio told the “Today” hosts that she’s “really excited” about her future, because she has “so many positive things coming up.” She considers her dual knee injuries just “a small setback ... just another thing to get through.”

For Cerio, the routine she started on that fateful day was just another routine. She had no premonition that anything would happen, and everything was normal — even her pre-routine jitters. As she was doing that tumbling pass, she felt that something was slightly off, but she’d always been able to “pull it back” in the past. And even when she landed, she didn’t immediately know anything was wrong. She didn’t start to feel any pain until she looked down and saw what had happened.

Cerio credits her family, friends, teammates, and coaching staff for helping her maintain a positive attitude.

“Everything I’ve done and trained for, at least at Auburn, has been for my team. And knowing I have their support behind me 100 percent no matter what happens, that’s always helped me.”

Cerio also addressed the video of her gruesome accident going viral. She tweeted last week that “my pain is not your entertainment,” and she believes that by doing that, she’s made others more aware of the real people behind tragic viral videos.

“When you see something like that, you kind of want to watch it just to see what happens because you’re curious about it. But at the same time you don’t think about the people it could impact, whether it’s that person’s friends or family or that person.”

Cerio’s gymnastics career is over, but as a college senior just months from graduation, she’s about to embark on the next chapter of her life. She’s getting married soon, and she’ll be putting her degree in aerospace engineering to good use as a structural design analysis engineer working on rockets with Boeing. Her time as a college gymnast may not have ended the way she dreamed, but a bright future is waiting for her.

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