For an hour or so on Saturday evening, Jan 11, 20-year old Oceanside resident Samantha Cesario was on top of the women’s ice skating world — in first place at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships at Boston’s TD Garden, even after placing 11th in the critical short program the previous Thursday.
She got to the top by acing her free skate program early on Saturday night, one of the first skaters to take the ice. Then reality set in as the top skaters took to the ice and forced her into fifth place, two spots away from making the Olympic team.
With a large contingent of her family from Oceanside, Samantha Cesario took to the ice on the evening of Jan. 9 for her short program in Boston’ TD Garden, with a possible trip to the Winter Olympics hanging in the balance.
The 2011 graduate of Oceanside High School just missed achieving her lifetime dream due to her poor showing in the short program. For Cesario, who finished eighth in the nationals last year, just being there is a tribute to her determination.
She tore the lateral collateral ligament in her left knee three days before she was to compete in the 2012 U.S. Championships. It was a routine jump during a routine practice -- a triple loop she had successfully performed hundreds of times. That injury came almost exactly a year after fractured vertebrae forced her to withdraw from the same competition in January 2011.
Cesario had enjoyed four consecutive top-three finishes leading up to nationals in 2012, including winning the North Atlantic Regional.
“Giving up figure skating definitely crossed my mind,” she told a Newsday reporter. “To work so hard and have success, then have another injury, the frustration is indescribable. After the [knee], I wondered, ‘Maybe my body can’t handle this and it’s not meant to be; maybe I should do something else.’ “
She added, “I had come too far in my career to throw it away,” she said. “Skating is what I do and I knew I had more to offer, more to accomplish. I wanted to prove that to everyone.”
She went on to win the Eastern Sectional two months later, which was a springboard to the 2013 U.S. Championships. Since then, she has finished top five in four straight tournaments and, most recently, took fourth in the Trophee Bompard in Paris in November.
“Sam has always been a fighter,” said her father, Mike Cesario.
Cesario was accepted to Fashion Institute of Technology after graduating from Oceanside, but she deferred college enrollment to focus on skating.