Injured Auburn gymnast has new goal following surgery: To walk down the aisle at her wedding

Auburn gymnast Samantha Cerio, who dislocated both knees during a competition last week, is getting married in two months, and her coach says she's determined to walk down the aisle.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

The college gymnast who suffered a catastrophic injury to both legs during a competition last week is getting married in two months and has a new goal now that her athletic career is over, her coach said.

"She wants to walk down the aisle and get married, and we're hoping she can do that," Samantha Cerio's coach, Jeff Graba, told NBC News.

The 22-year-old Auburn senior was recovering from surgery on Tuesday after dislocating both knees and tearing multiple ligaments during a high-flying floor routine in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Friday.

Video of the gruesome moment captured national attention, triggering an outpouring of support for the brave young gymnast.

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Graba said the event was "one of the toughest nights of my life."

"I told her that I loved her and that I was with her, and she said to go back and get the girls ready to finish this thing," he said.

Despite her injuries, the aerospace engineering major from North Carolina made it clear she was not going to be defined by the way her final performance ended. She left the sport with her head held high in an inspiring Instagram message on Sunday.

"After 18 years I am hanging up my grips and leaving the chalk behind,'' she wrote. "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. It may not have ended the way I had planned, but nothing ever goes as planned."

Cerio's teammates rallied in her honor following her injury, finishing with a score of 197.075, the highest regional score in team history, to reach Saturday's regional final.

Louisiana State University won that meet, with Auburn taking fourth.

Auburn gymnast Samantha Cerio delivered a positive message after suffering a gruesome injury that ended her career. Getty Images

"Sam is just so passionate in everything she does, especially with this team,'' senior Abby Milliet told AuburnTigers.com. "So I circled everybody together and I said, 'We're not going to do this. We're not going to get sad. We can be sad later because it is sad. But we're going to do what she would want us to do and light this fire. This is time for us to have a new fire. Sam wouldn't want us to give up. She would fight harder.'"

"They really believed that you know Sam's our leader and Sam's the heart and soul of the team, and this is what she wanted her whole time she was here, and they wanted to do it for her," Graba said.

Despite the difficult end to her gymnastics career, Cerio has a bright future ahead.

She was named the Southeastern Conference co-scholar athlete of the year and has already has accepted a job in Seattle with Boeing working on rockets as a structural design analysis engineer, according to the school's website.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article stated that Cerio had broken both her legs.