Ice Network

Calling it a career: Cesario decides to retire at 21

Skater cites recurring injures, restrictive judging system in decision
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The passion that Samantha Cesario brought to her 'Carmen' free skate will be missed by skating fans the world over. -Jay Adeff

At the end of last season, Samantha Cesario knew she would say goodbye to her popular Carmen free skate.

She was not as certain about her skating future, however.

This past week, Cesario decided to retire from competitive skating. It wasn't an easy decision, but it was one she had been contemplating for some time. She and longtime coach Mary Lynn Gelderman had plenty of long, heart-to-heart conversations about her future over the last few months.

"It's very difficult to give specific reasons as to why I have made the decision, because I truly believe everything happens for a reason, and I think, as with any big decision in life, you have to listen to your heart and try to do what you feel is right for yourself," Cesario, 21, said.

"Despite my love for the sport, I think it can be hard for people on the outside to fully understand that there is more that goes into a skater's career than the scores they read at the end of an event," said Cesario, who started skating at 6 years old and trained with Gelderman since the age of 8. "I'm a skater who has always prided myself on my ability to perform for an audience and bring music to life. Unfortunately, at times, the new system didn't lend itself to my strong suits and that is something that wasn't always easy to deal with.

"Even though I have often felt the frustration all skaters feel at one time or another regarding scores not mirroring the performances they put out on the ice, I'm very proud of what I contributed to the sport and I feel ready to move on to the next chapter."

Cesario, who has battled extreme pronation of her knees in recent years, said that injuries played a big role in her decision to hang up her skates.

Although Cesario is moving away from the competitive realm, she will remain close to the ice. Having coached a little bit over the past few years, she now intends to devote herself to that pursuit full time. She will work alongside Gelderman and the rest of the coaching staff at the Twin Rinks facility on Long Island.

"I really enjoy what I'm doing every day, and I'm excited to learn more about being on the other side of the boards," Cesario said. "It's so cool for me to watch young skaters improve and to see the impact I can have on their lives. I can't wait to share my talent and everything I have learned from career with the next generation of skaters."

Gelderman said Cesario's work ethic helps her relate to the young skaters.

"She was a worker from day one," Gelderman said. "This is why I think you'll see great things from her as a coach. She is making the plunge and taking it seriously. She worked for everything she got. She knows what it takes when things don't come quickly or easily. She knows that if you work at it, you can do it, and that's so important."

Cesario made a name for herself as a competitor and as a showman. The past two seasons, she became especially popular for constructing a riveting, and often sassy, routine to Carmen. Although many skaters have used the music for their programs, few have been able to bring fans to their feet with it. Cesario was able to draw cheers.

"I have never felt so comfortable skating a program as I have with this one," Cesario said after the 2015 U.S. Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she placed fifth. "It will be hard -- almost painful -- for me to let this program go, for sure."

As much as fans applauded her free skate, they booed the results of her short program. Even when she earned a personal-best 59.21 points for her short in Greensboro, it landed her in only 11th place.

"The reactions I've received from so many fans and supporters who I have touched with my skating is something I can't describe and won't forget," Cesario said. "The lessons and the discipline learned from this sport are priceless and I wouldn't trade them for anything."

Cesario did not medal at the U.S. championships but did earn a spot on the U.S. team at the Four Continents Championships after Ashley Wagner decided not to compete. Cesario finished eighth in what turned out to be her last competitive event.

"I have definitely been through a lot," she said. "And, at times, I have pushed my body as far as it's willing to go. But I'm proud of my tenacity and the fact that I never let these issues overcome me. I hope I can be an inspiration for skaters, and athletes in general, who have to work extra hard to overcome obstacles in their path.

"Overall, I hope my career has taught people to never limit themselves and to find your individual strength and be confident in it because, at the end of the day, people respond to seeing someone who really loves what they do and is confident in the talent they have."