An Exclusive with Sam Peszek

Recently, Chatty Gymnast caught up with recent UCLA graduate, Sam Peszek, who has just finished her final season competing for the UCLA Bruins gymnastics team – winning two NCAA National titles this season. In the interview, we discussed topics such as UCLA, Beijing 2008, future career plans and the motherly love of Miss Val! This is definitely worth a read!

So, here it goes!

  1. You’ve just completed your final season as a UCLA Bruin. How have your experiences at UCLA and as a student-athlete shaped you as a person?

SP: My experiences at UCLA have shaped me tremendously as a person. I am so lucky to have great coaches that not only want us to succeed athletically and academically, but more importantly in life. At UCLA I felt extremely challenged to be the best I could be and to set the bar even higher for myself when I graduate. I loved every minute of it and couldn’t think of a better place to set me up for life after college.

  1. Also this season, you won two NCAA National titles; what did it feel like to take these titles home?

SP: It was really nice to end my gymnastics career on such a great note. I’ve always loved gymnastics and truthfully was nervous to be done competing. However, I feel completely at peace with moving on and excited for the “life after gymnastics,” I’ve heard so many people talk about.

  1. Back in 2013, you tore your Achilles and were sidelined from competition for the whole 2013 season. How did you cope with this and how did you motivate yourself to get back for the next season? 

SP: I was really devastated by this actually because it was right before season and I had worked so hard that pre-season. It was also such a bummer because I love competing, but I really used this year to figure out how I wanted my next two years of gymnastics to go and focused on what I was going to do differently. Not only was I a better leader from the experience, but I was also a smarter athlete.

  1. You’ve been very entertaining hosting the UCLA Gymnastics web series Bruin Banter throughout this season. As you’re a Communications Studies major, was this a project you created yourself?

SP: It started as my idea that I told Miss Val about the year I was injured and she helped me make it happen. It has definitely evolved since then and this year we were fortunate enough to have Deanna Hong to edit it and together we had ideas/themes for each week. I’m really proud of how it went this year and hopefully it can be a tradition that is continued from here……Danusia is the host this season and she’ll be amazingly entertaining

  1. Now that you’ve graduated college, where will you go next? Do you have any career ideas yet?

SP: I’m traveling a lot in the summer staying in the gymnastics community, however I am working on a lot of different projects! I would love to get into broadcasting and eventually get my MBA.

  1. Miss Val is a woman that the Gymternet hold dearly in our hearts. What is she like as a coach and as a person, outside of Gymnastics?

  SP:  Miss Val has been a coach, a mentor, a friend, a life coach and everything in between. I can’t thank her enough for teaching me so much about life. When you go to college it is a big transition no matter where you go, but I’m extremely lucky to have her and Chris and Randy to be such great role models for all of us. Miss Val is someone that will be in my life forever. ❤

  1. Your sister, Jessie, is a member of the Western Michigan gymnastics team and is doing incredibly well. As club gymnasts, was it an advatange or a disadvantage of having a sister doing gymnastics with you?

SP: Jessie had a great year! As a club gymnast we were never on the same practice schedule or anything like that so it wasn’t necessarily an advantage or disadvantage. She stayed at DeVeaus when I went to train with Marvin and Bridget, so we haven’t really ever trained together to be honest.

  1. All the way back in 2008, you made the Olympic team but you injured your left ankle during training and were limited to just bars. How did you feel after this? Were you upset that you were limited or were you just happy to compete?

SP: I was extremely devastated. My practices were going so well and I had my routines on lock, so it was such a bummer for something like that to happen. Of course, it was still an honor to compete for USA and be on the team. I had to switch roles from being an all-arounder to a motivator for the rest of the girls because in my heart the most important thing Team USA. I really wanted an opportunity to compete beam because I never feel like I showed my full potential on that event in elite, but then again being able to hit my bar routine when the team needed me too even under those circumstances was a really rewarding feeling!

  1. What would your advice be to young gymnasts, aiming to be as successful as you?

SP: I would just tell young gymnasts to be passionate and always remember why you started. The road is never easy, but it is 100% worth it.

10.  Can we expect to see an elite return from you? Or has that ship well and truly sailed? 

SP: HAHA…..I mean maybe I’ll do a comeback…..JK. I’m really lucky to have the opportunity in college and compete for UCLA. I feel like it has completely prepared me for life after gymnastics and I’m ready for what the next chapter brings!


An article by James Greaves / editor-in-chief

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