All of the hard work is paying off for Samantha Cesario.
The 20-year-old was taken by surprise earlier this month when she learned that she had earned a berth to compete at Skate America in October. It will be her first senior Grand Prix event.
Cesario was not expecting this assignment, after struggling in the long program at her first summer competition of the season. “I was really excited to hear that my federation still had faith in me that I could do a great job and represent the U.S.,” she said. “In this Olympic year, getting a senior Grand Prix and going to Champs Camp really means everything to me.”
Last season, Cesario claimed bronze at her first Junior Grand Prix event in Austria, but an injury forced her to withdraw after the short program at her second assignment in Germany.
After skating into eighth place at the 2013 U.S. nationals at the senior level she was assigned to the World Junior team.
Cesario placed first in the short program with a performance she described as “not my best, but a good program. When I saw my score come up and I saw that I was in first, I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh,’” the New York native said. “I knew that so many of the girls that had gone before me were really big competitors, had all the triple-triples and were 14 and tiny. It was just unbelievable to hear my name in first place.”
The free skate did not go as well, however, leaving Cesario disappointed with her overall fourth place result, and a little more than six points behind the bronze medalist.
Cesario said that her free skate at Junior Worlds was similar to her performance at senior nationals a month earlier. At that event, she earned 115 points for the free skate, but at Junior Worlds, her performance garnered only 99 points.
“I really felt like I should have been on that podium,” Cesario said. “The other girls had really good skates as well, but I felt like I could have earned a little more than what I got.”
Despite missing the podium, Junior Worlds was a good learning experience. Cesario discovered what she is made of as a competitor and was proud of herself for skating well under pressure. “I was really happy with what I put out, even if it didn’t get me exactly what I wanted,” Cesario said. “I was very happy with myself and what I did. It was just a great experience and opportunity.”
She kicked off the Olympic season at the Liberty Summer Competition in Aston, Pa., opening her short program to “Fever,” with a triple loop-triple loop combination. The second jump was judged under-rotated, but Cesario said it was a good attempt. “I was happy with how (the short program) went for the first time out,” she said. “It was received really well, and I felt comfortable skating it. It’s a very fun program and a good program for me.”
Her long program to the soundtrack from “Titanic” did not go as well. She fell on a triple flip and had turnouts on other jumps. She ended up in fourth.
Cesario said she had always wanted to skate to that soundtrack and had even argued with her coach, Mary Lynn Gelderman, about using the music. “I really thought that it would be great and people would love it,” Cesario said. “But for me, when something went wrong in the program, there was nothing I could latch on to, to keep me going.”
She decided to change her free program music to Konstantinovich Shchedrin’s “Carmen Suite,” which is based on the popular opera by Bizet.
Cesario said her “Black Swan” long program from last season earned a lot of positive feedback and was one of her favorites. “I got to do it at such special competitions, but I think I love both my new programs even more than those from last season,” she said.
She had used a modern version of “Carmen” for a short program the past three seasons, but said her new long program is “totally different. It’s much more like a free skating opera.”
Cesario will debut her new programs next month at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in Salt Lake City, Utah.
She knows the competition will be challenging. “I’m glad that at the beginning of the season, I’m going to get that reality check and have a big competition to start with,” she said. “There are going to be some good U.S. girls there, and I’m ready to see where I fall.”
This season, she plans to include a triple loop-triple loop combination in the short program but will initially omit the jump from her free skate to focus on a “nice clean long with all the other triples.”
Cesario said she would likely add it to her long program as the season progresses. “It’s definitely improving, so hopefully, we’ll have it in both by the end of the season.”
When asked what her goals are for Skate America, Cesario said they are similar to those she had while competing on the junior circuit. “Just to put my programs out to the best of my ability and hopefully keep seeing good medal contention,” she said. “Wherever it falls, two good skates is really my goal.”
One of her other passions is fashion. Cesario started designing her skating costumes while still in high school and worked with New York dressmaker Stephanie Handler to create this season’s short program costume. “Whenever I hear music or start my program, I usually get a very distinct idea of what I’d like to do,” Cesario said. “So usually, I’m just like ‘here! This is what I want!’”
She also stays involved with the sport by teaching young skaters in U.S. Figure Skating’s Basic Skills program. She said skating and coaching is time consuming, but worthwhile. “Hopefully after skating, that’ll be something I can pursue. But when you’re skating for three hours, you do not want to enter a rink again. It’s rough, but I do enjoy it.”
Working with some of her coach’s intermediate level skaters is also gratifying. “After so many years of doing my own skating, to help another skater coming up just feels really good. I hope that I can inspire young skaters to continue in this extremely difficult sport.”
Cesario, who graduated from high school two years ago, said skating is her main focus now. She will decide what she wants to take in college at the end of her competitive career.
Like many others Cesario has Olympic dreams, but is keeping them in the back of her mind. “If it goes that way at nationals, obviously that would be amazing,” she said.
“But, in the end, one of my main goals is to be the kind of skater that people remember.”
Injuries to her back and knee forced Cesario to withdraw from the 2011 and 2012 U.S. Championships.
What she learned? To listen to her body and not push herself when she feels like she has reached her limit.
Cesario’s typical training routine: Stretching for 20 to 30 minutes before hitting the ice; training three hours per day, four days a week, and two hours on Friday without her coach; working with a physical therapist two or three times a week.
Favorite food: Pasta. “Considering I’m 100 percent Italian, that’s not very creative.”
Favorite vacation place: Italy. Cesario said she would love to travel to a tropical place, but “skating doesn’t take you there.”
Favorite books: Mysteries, love stories and anything juicy.
Favorite movie: “The Notebook”
Hobbies: Reading and spending time with friends. “I try to be as normal as possible.”