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Interview with Samantha Peszek MAG
Samantha Peszek is 19 and has already accomplished more than many will in a lifetime. In 2004, at 12, she became the youngest member of the U.S. junior national gymnastics team and competed internationally. In 2007, Samantha became a world champion and, in 2008, she accomplished her life-long goal of making the Olympic team, and helped win a silver medal at the 2008 Games.
Was it difficult to balance gymnastics and school?
I remember a few times it was difficult, but I began practicing time management in grade school when I had to miss class for competitions. It really came naturally to me because I wanted the best of both worlds, so I always worked hard to make sure I could be the best gymnast as well as getting straight A’s.
I was always really social, so I found that was the hardest for me to continue to do “normally” when I was so busy with training and studying. However, I went to all the football, basketball, and baseball games I could, and I always found a way to attend dances and other school functions. I consider myself lucky to live a regular life on top of winning international medals for my country.
What was it like being a member of the 2008 Olympic team?
It would be impossible for me to sum up the Olympic Games because no words could ever do it justice. There was so much pride that came with being on the U.S. team. I couldn’t have felt more honored to represent my country and more excited about the hard work and obstacles I knew we would have to overcome there. The most incredible moment for me was walking out into the arena and seeing all the American flags. At that moment I have never felt so proud to be an American.
Will you try for the Olympics in 2012?
Right now, I am very happy to be a part of the UCLA gymnastics team. I just won the NCAA national champion balance beam title. I would love to go to the Olympics in 2012, but right now I am taking one day at a time and focusing on other priorities first.
You worked hard to accomplish your dreams. Do you have any advice for teens about how to accomplish theirs?
If you have a dream, no matter how impossible it may seem, go for it. My parents always told me I could do anything I set my mind to, and after I made the Olympic team, I knew that was true. Also, if you want something badly enough, you have to chase after it and give 100 percent to it.
Are you enjoying college?
I love being at UCLA. I am really enjoying my classes and training with a big, fun team. The weather is amazing, and there is so much to do and see. I haven’t found a downside yet. I usually wake up every morning, look out my window, and say, “Wow, I can’t believe I go to school here!”
How do you feel about the younger gymnasts looking up to you?
I like when a kid asks a question and they have that star-struck look in their eyes – that is when I know I am having an impact. When I was little I used to do the same thing to other Olympians, and much of my motivation came from wanting to be in their shoes. I know in a few years those kids will be the next Olympians.