Meet Samantha Peszek! Peszek won a Silver Medal on Team USA Gymnastics during the 2008 Summer Olympics. She later joined UCLA and became a two-time National Champion on Balance Beam and All Around Co-National Champion. Peszek shares her story and life lessons!

Sam: Thank you for your time. Would you share how you got involved in gymnastics and what led you to take part on the 2008 US Olympic Team?
Samantha Peszek: Absolutely! My dad was a wrestler & hockey player in college while my mom was a gymnast. So, two college athletes that put me in a mommy and me class for gymnastics when I was two. I ended up loving it and before I knew it — two days a week turned into five days a week, and then it was five to six hours a day on top of school. Then at 12 years old, I made the national team and was competing on the international stage.

Therefore, I definitely grew up fast. I loved competing. I loved representing Team USA, in an extremely tough environment. It definitely required having thick skin. I had to learn life lessons which I’m actually kind of re-learning now in business. It’s the mentality of fall down seven times, get up eight. Along with all those things I used to qualify for the Olympic Team which was fourteen years and a lot of hours conditioning and overcoming injuries, but it was a dream come true and all worth it.

Sam: Definitely! Just before qualifications at the Olympics, you injured your ankle. Could you talk a little about that and the emotional impact of the injury?
Samantha Peszek: Yeah, five minutes before the competition started, I landed sideways and tore almost every ligament in my foot. So, not ideal timing at all! But, when competing with your team in a high-level situation, it almost becomes flight or fight mode, and you automatically go to how you can help your team at that moment. I get really calm under pressure and under stress. So, I immediately became very calm, and as upset and frustrated as I was, I knew I couldn’t change it. Therefore, I had to do what I thought would be best for my teammates that day by having a great attitude and being positive for them.

I still got to do one event. So, by the time Bar came around, the cortisone shot had kicked in, and I was able to do my Bar routine. I just crossed my fingers for the landing because I wasn't able to practice it and my foot was numb from the shot.

It was really just a dream come true to be able to contribute for the team in that one event, and really special for that day.

Sam: Fast forward after the Olympics, you went to UCLA. Why did you decide to go there?
Samantha Peszek: After the Olympics, I was healing my body and had to get a knee surgery. It turned out to be perfect timing to start taking my college visits. At the time, it was a tough decision. However, I had an amazing coach in Valorie Klondos at UCLA. She was the only coach to tell me, “it wouldn’t be the easiest four years of my life, but it would be the most rewarding.” The school also fit me perfectly and the academics were tough which I was looking for. After, my education set me up for life after athletics.

Sam: Winning two National titles on Balance Beam, is it safe to say it's your favorite event?
Samantha Peszek: I had the most amount of fear and almost quit the sport because of it! However, I found a way to overcome it and love it which became my best and favorite event.

I just had so many fears, since flipping on a four-inch beam is really scary. Especially, as a little kid, it was very frightening. It took a lot of years of mental discipline and mental toughness to get through it. And again, since I never wanted to do it, it made me better, because it taught me to have positive thoughts and visualize goals at a really young age.

Sam: You also have your own company that works with children gymnastics. Could you share a little about that?
Samantha Peszek: Yeah! I started my own company called Be A Queen Bootcamp. Like I mentioned, the hardest event for me that became my favorite and won two national championships on Beam allowed me to create a way to let little kids love that event at a much sooner age.

My first event was in 2017 and I had planned to do it once a year as a way to give back. However, after that very first event, I received inquiries from twenty-five gyms in seventeen different states. I was like “Wow! So many people want to work on balance beam!” So, we expanded and this past year went international for the first time working with Australia gymnasts.

Sam: So, where can people find you and hear your podcast?
Samantha Peszek: Please check out my podcast! Season 3 starts on September 30. This season is entrepreneurs, authors, and high-level thinkers focusing on business, wellness, and personal development.

The whole theme of the podcast is You are the average of the people you associate with. Along with helping everyone to up their average and live better lives. The goal is to be a continuous season, with a new episode every Wednesday.

The podcast is @ihavecoolfriendspod at ihavecoolfriends.com. My social media is @Samanthapeszek.

 
 

Disclaimer: All Photos Provided Courtesy & Authorized by Samantha Peszek. Potential minor edits for transcript's length, flow, grammatical/formatting.
NEXT: If you enjoyed this, please read our interview with 2018 Olympic Speed Skater Saskia Alusalu