Inside Gymnastics: What have you been up to lately?
Samantha Peszek: I’ve had such a transition year and it’s been so fun trying new things. After I graduated in June, I started doing a lot of motivational speaking at middle schools, universities, businesses, and of course, gym clubs. I really love the idea of inspiring people to be the best they can be. I remember when Olympians spoke to our gym and it meant the world to me. I would hang on their every word and I wanted to be just like them. Now, it’s cool for me to pass it on and do the same for young gymnasts because I know the impact it can have on them.
I was hired by PAC-12 Networks to do NCAA gymnastics commentary, so that’s been a cool way of enjoying the sport in a different capacity. I’m really loving it and hope I can eventually tell stories about athletes in other sports as well. It’s fascinating to me learning about what makes athletes great and the motivation behind it, so I hope I just get to continue telling stories!
Inside: You do such an excellent job commentating the P&G Championships! Tell us about that experience.
Samantha: Thank you so much! Working with Evan Heiter is so much fun and I feel like we have a great broadcast chemistry together. We always try to brainstorm about what WE would want to hear if we were listening to the broadcast. I wouldn’t say it’s your typical broadcast, but I think that’s what makes it fun and interesting especially for the gymnastics fans that already know so much about the sport. We love having an interactive broadcast where people can tweet us exactly what they want to know. It’s more fun that way! We’re also excited to announce that we will be commentating Pacific Rim, so that will be our next exciting adventure together!
Inside: What are some of your favorite gymnastics memories?
Samantha: I honestly have so many that it’s hard to say. Obviously notable competitions stand out, but a lot of my favorite gymnastics memories aren’t even about the gymnastics but the friendships and the feelings the sport produced. The feeling I got when I competed was the best feeling in the entire world. The friendships that I’ve made through the sport all the way from TOPs testing to elite to NCAA are something that I cherish the most.
Inside: Which did you prefer—competing in elite or NCAA?
Samantha: That is always the question people want to know and I think it’s unanswerable in the sense that it’s like comparing apples and oranges. The pros of NCAA are the cons of elite and vice versa. There is absolutely nothing that will compare to wearing a USA leotard and competing for your country especially since it was a dream of mine since I was 5. On the other hand, NCAA taught me so many life lessons that I feel will make me a successful person aside from gymnastics. NCAA also brought the fun back to the sport for me. I was so serious coming from elite and that’s just not who I am as a person. I’m so grateful to college gymnastics for reminding me how much fun gymnastics can be and helping me have a smooth and peaceful transition out of the sport.
Inside: What was your favorite skill to compete?
Samantha: My favorite skill to compete was my back tuck full, back pike combination on beam. It was pretty easy for me, but after I hit it, I knew I was always confident in the rest of my routine.
Inside: Which Code of Points was better, in your opinion? The 10.0 system or the open-ended code?
Samantha: At first I was so against getting rid of the 10.0 system because it was tradition and no one could ever get a “perfect 10” anymore. However, after competing in college and seeing the importance for needing to separate the level of difficulty of routines, I’m completely for the new system. There is so much difficulty being thrown in the elite world right now, it makes sense for them to get rewarded for it. I do wish there was a bigger emphasis on getting a 10.0 execution, in a fan’s eyes that way a routine could still be recognized as a “perfect 10” in some way.
Inside: It’s been eight years since Beijing 2008. Can you reflect back on your Olympic journey?
Samantha: Getting selected for the team was the best day of my life. I had wished on every birthday candle, every 11:11, and every fallen eyelash that I would make it to the Olympics and it happened. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a perfect trip for me. I don’t have any regrets, so it’s not something I dwell on, but I was incredibly proud to be part of such a tough team. It seemed like we were always fighting together and I was so proud to be standing with the girls on the podium at the end of the meet. We accomplished something great together and we built memories and bond that will never be forgotten.
Inside: Please tell us about the 2008 Olympic selection process; is that system worse or better than nowadays, when the team is named at Trials instead of a training camp?
Samantha: I think it’s better that the team is selected at Trials. I’ll be the first one to tell you that I love competing, but after Championships and Trials you’re just mentally and physically exhausted. I think it’s great that the whole team can be recognized in front of a huge audience like trials because it builds the USA camaraderie right away! I would imagine that seeing all the USA fans support gives you an extra boost of excitement before the Games.
Inside: Would you consider coaching one day?
Samantha: Right now I’m excited about pursuing broadcast and motivational speaking, but I never like to close any doors! 😉
Inside: Do you ever feel the urge to return to competition?
Samantha: I’ve been asked this question a lot since I’ve retired and to be honest I was nervous to be done. I was the weirdo that always looooooved gymnastics even on the “not-so-fun” days, so it was a scary thought to be finished. I ended on such a great note and have no regrets, which I think makes the transition a little easier. There’s been a few instances where I’ve been commentating and I’ll miss the feeling of hitting a great set, but other than that, I’m so excited to pursue other things!
Inside: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Samantha: Alicia Sacramone and I started The Gympire, which we’re really excited about. The purpose is to form an empowering community dedicated to fitness, inspiration, and living a healthy lifestyle. It is only a social media platform right now, but we’re hoping to expand! We love the fact that we can challenge each other even from opposite coasts and we’re hoping it will do the same for the rest of The Gympire community! We have a lot of exciting plans for the future, so you’ll have to stay tuned!
Anna Rose Johnson writes about women’s artistic and rhythmic gymnastics. She loves Whippets, brownies, and full-twisting double layouts. Her writing portfolio can be viewed at: https://annarosejohnson.contently.com