Auburn star gymnast Samantha Cerio retires after gruesome injury

The Auburn University gymnast whose stomach-churning leg injuries during a floor routine sent shockwaves across social media has announced her retirement from the sport.

“Friday night was my final night as a gymnast. After 18 years I am hanging up my grips and leaving the chalk behind,” Samantha Cerio wrote in a lengthy Instagram post Sunday.

“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,” she wrote.

“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. “War Eagle Always.”

The 22-year-old senior had hoped to deliver a perfect performance at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La., to help the Auburn Tigers secure a spot in the NCAA’s region final.

Instead, she landed awkwardly after a tumbling pass and fell as her legs crumbled beneath her during a so-called blind landing — in what many have called the worst sports-related injury they have ever seen.

Cerio apparently dislocated both knees and broke her legs, according to the Times-Picayune, which cited sources familiar with her gruesome injuries.

“It was pretty tough to watch,” Auburn gymnastics coach Jeff Graba told the news outlet, noting that in all his years coaching since the 1980s, he had never seen anything like what happened to the young woman.

Graba said Cerio, who earned All-SEC awards in 2017 and 2018, reached for the floor a little too early at the end of her pass.

With aircasts on both legs, she received a standing ovation as she was carried out of the arena on a stretcher.

Warning: Footage is gruesome

“It was pretty tough to watch,” Graba said. “She’s a trouper. The last thing she said was, ‘Go help the girls.’ The girls rallied around her. They’re doing this for her right now.”

He added: “I gave her a hug, told her I hugged her before she left and said we’d catch back up tonight.”

Fellow senior Abby Milliet rounded up her teammates after the initial  shock wore off.

“Y’all. I know we want to feel sad for Sam right now, but this is not what she would have wanted,” Milliet recalled telling the other gymnasts. “Sam has put everything into this and she’s going to want us to give everything. This is our new fire.”

The Tigers remained focused and Auburn’s overall score of 197.075 was the second-highest for the team all season — good enough to advance into Saturday’s Regional Final against LSU, Minnesota and Utah.

“We weathered some adversity,” Graba said. “I think we’re a really good team. All that did was prove it.”

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