Driven Cesario hopes to be comeback kid, again

Injury-prone skater aiming for two JGP assignments, top-four finish at nationals

Samantha Cesario, pictured here with coach Mary Lynn Gelderman, won her senior ladies short program group Friday at Liberty.
Samantha Cesario, pictured here with coach Mary Lynn Gelderman, won her senior ladies short program group Friday at Liberty. (Lynn Rutherford)


Related Content Top Headlines
By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(07/20/2012) - This week's Liberty competition must feel like a summer rerun to Samantha Cesario.

At last year's event, the 18-year-old was returning to competition after a back injury forced her out of the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships and into a hard cast for eight weeks. She battled back to form, winning her senior ladies groups here in Aston, Pa., and earning two Junior Grand Prix bronze medals in the fall.

Then, three days before she was scheduled to leave her home on Long Island for San Jose and the 2012 U.S. Championships, she tore her left lateral collateral ligament (LCL) and was off the ice for six to eight weeks.

"It was a really freak accident this time, which made it even worse," Cesario said. "I was doing triple loop and kind of sat on my legs, and it went the wrong way. It wouldn't have been such a bad injury if it had happened any other time."

Now, she's back at Liberty, and it must seem like she's trapped in Groundhog Day. One positive repetition: This year, like last, she won her short program group with a clean, elegant skate to an upbeat techno version of Bizet's Carmen.

"I kept both my programs from last season, and I changed the long a lot more than I did the short," Cesario said. "I have new spins -- we changed them because of all the new rules and tried to make them more interesting. And I did the triple loop-double toe, but I had planned that for nationals, so it's not really too new. I'm working on triple loop-triple loop, so hopefully that will go in for my next competition."

Cesario followed her combination, which earned 7.10 points, with a pristine triple flip, Level 4 layback spin and solid double Axel. She closed with a sharp Level 4 camel combination spin. Overall, the program earned 54.55 points.

Just like last season, Cesario hopes her next stop is the Junior Grand Prix.

"My goal is to get an assignment, then do well and get a second and qualify for the final," she said. "Then I just want to get to nationals and place well, in the top four seniors.

"I feel like I have so much to offer, and it would be a shame to give it up because of something that happened. I just want to have my chance to see how I would place and how it would go."

Joelle Forte, who came in 14th at the 2012 U.S. Championships, opened her season with a clean outing to "Feeling Good" that kicked off with a strong triple Lutz-double toe combination. Unlike the other ladies, she took advantage of a new ISU rule awarding a 10 percent bonus to jumps done past the 1:25 mark in the short and hit a triple Salchow and double Axel late in the program, earning 47.93 points.

"[The program is] brand new; I just got it three weeks ago," the 26-year-old Long Islander said. "It's a different style for me, and I feel really comfortable with it. I'm trying to get into the music and relax a little more. It's a good start."

Like Cesario, Forte hopes to add a triple-triple to her short later in the season.

"I'm trying triple toe-triple toe almost every day, but I figured for Liberty I really want to show a good performance," she said. "Ultimately, my goal is to put in toe-toe for the combo and then do the Lutz at the end, but I wanted to come here and skate clean."

Yasmin Siraj, who trains at the Skating Club of Boston under Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson, performed a polished program to Ravel's "Daphnis et Chloe" marred only by popping an intended triple Lutz into a single. She placed third with 47.12 points.

Camille Davis had a solid skate to finish fourth, while U.S. junior silver medalist Ashley Cain faltered on her triple Lutz and triple flip to place fifth.

Dunne sets bar high in senior ladies group A

Haley Dunne, who trains at the University of Delaware, earned a score of 57.66 to win her short program group by more than 10 points.

The student of Pam Gregory and Jeff DiGregorio had a career-best outing, hitting a triple flip-double toe, triple Lutz and double Axel as well as three Level 4 spins.

Roxanne Rheault was second with 47.47, and Isadora Williams, who represents Brazil, claimed third with 46.72 points.