Amanda and Jaycie may have started the tradition of Region 5 Olympic Hopefuls and Olympians, but Sam Peszek and Bridget Sloan (coming up next) certainly did their part to help carrier on the tradition. In 2008 it had been a little over 10 years since a Region 5 Athlete competed at the Olympic Games. Samantha Peszek of DeVeau’s School of Gymnastics in Indiana is our next Region 5 Rewind feature athlete.
Samantha started gymnastics in 1993 at DeVeau’s in Fishers, Indiana. It was inevitable that Sam start gymnastics, her mom Luan has worked for USA Gymnastics in Indianapolis long before Sam was even born. Sam grew up in the gymnastics community, she had been around and exposed to the USA Gymnastics and elite gymnastics scene for her entire life. So, Sam having Olympic aspirations was not too surprising to many in the gymnastics community.
Sam was on the elite track pretty early, she was a TOPs National Team members, she greatly benefited from the TOPs program. Sam was also a highly successful JO athlete having competed in the 2004 JO National Championships placing 2nd in the AA, Vault, Bars, Beam and 7th on the Floor. After a successful JO Nationals, Sam qualified for Junior International Elite.
What was extremely special and rare about Sam Peszek was that as an international elite gymnast, she was one of only two on the national team that went to school all day then had practice in the afternoon after her school day was finished. This was very rare in elite gymnastics, many would either home school or go to an abbreviated school day so they could have twice a day practices. Sam went to a catholic private school and had all the normal experiences that any other high school student would experience, but slightly different at times of course.
In 2004, her first year as a junior elite she competed at the U.S Classic and the Visa Championship placing in the top 10 on each event and the AA. In the same year she competed in her first international competition a dual competition in Texas with the USA and Canada, where the USA placed 1st place as a team.
In 2005, Samantha continued to find national and international success competing in the U.S Classic placing 2nd on vault, 3rd on floor and 8th in the AA in the Junior Division. She qualified from there onto the Visa Championships where is placed 7th AA, 2nd on the floor and took her first national title on the vault. Sam also competed internationally in 2005 at the Mexican International Invitational placing 1st in the AA, vault and on the floor. In 2006 Samantha’s elite stock continued to rise placing 1st on the floor, 4th on the beam and 2nd in the AA at the U.S Classic. At the Visa Championships in St.Paul,Minnesota, Sam place 2nd on the vault and 3rd in the AA. Internationally Sam again found success taking 1st AA, vault, beam and 3rd on bars at the International Gymnix held in Montreal. In the same year, Sam qualified to the Junior Pan American Championships taking top team honors, floor and placing 4th in the AA all in the junior division.
In 2007, Samantha finally reached the premier level! Senior International Elite, which was absolutely perfect, becoming a senior the year before the Olympic Games is a perfect place to gain the necessary international experience one needs to make a true run at the Olympic Team. Sam is now eligible for more international assignments, most importantly an opportunity to qualify to the 2007 World Championship Team. Sam started off 2007 at the Visa Championships placing in the Top 10 on all the events plus the AA. Sam who has been a member of the national team since she first turned elite was selected for the 2007 World Championships to be held in Stuttgart, Germany. In Germany, Sam showed great routines and helped Team USA win their first World Championship team gold medal on international soil. For Team USA, this was a huge stepping stone towards the 2008 Olympics and solidifying their position as the strongest team in the world and the favorites for the 2008 Olympic Team gold medal.
As an athlete the most exciting time in all of sports is the Olympic Year. It can feel like it takes an eternity to get here, but once it arrives it feels like it came to quick. In 2008 the Olympic Games were to be held in Beijing, China. Leading up to the games, Sam competed a lot. Sam started off her year at the 2008 Tyson American Cup in New York City, in her first international competition of the year, Peszek placed 3rd in the AA. Sam next landed herself a spot on the team that would travel to the City of Jesolo Trophy meet in Jesolo, Italy, where she was part of the 1st place team and earned 3rd in the individual AA. All the international success early in 2008 helped Sam gain valuable experience and exposure in her hunt for the olympic team. At the 2008 Visa Championships, Sam place 4th in the AA, 5th on beam, 6th on bars and 10th on floor. She earned herself a spot at the 2008 Olympic Team Trials.
At the 2008 Olympic Team Trials, the top two AA finishers would automatically earn a spot on the olympic team, while another 12 will earn invitations to the Olympic Selection Camp to be held at the ranch. Sam placed 4th in the AA earning herself a place at the selection camp. After a long selection process and many competitions, Samantha accomplished every gymnast’s dream and was named to the 2008 U.S Olympic Team. Heading into Beijing Sam was pegged to be one of the key players for the US Team in the qualification round, however during floor warm-up right before the competition Sam rolled her ankle on a tumbling pass, and would limit Samantha’s participation to only bars in the preliminary competition. However, do to some errors and mistakes the favorites would go onto take the silver medal in the team final behind China.
After the Olympic Games, Sam continued in elite gymnastics, however her coach from DeVeau’s returned back to China to help his family so Sam began training with her Olympic Teammate Bridge Sloan at Sharp’s Gymnastics in Pittsboro, Indiana. Sam competed for the first time after the Olympics at the 2009 CoverGirl Classic. She then decided to compete at the Visa Championships in hopes of making the 2009 World Team as a 3 event specialist. During Visa Championships Sam placed 2nd on beam and 7th on the Floor, Sam was added to the U.S National Team. In her quest for a spot on the 2009 World Team, Sam made it to the 2nd round of the selection camp, however she was forced to pull out of the selection process to have her torn labrum fixed that she sustained earlier in the year. Sam decided to retire from elite gymnastics and begin her collegiate career at UCLA.
Like many Olympians before her, Sam chose to uphold her NCAA eligibility and attend UCLA. which has quite the history of olympic athletes. In 2011, her freshman year, Sam became the first college gymnast to perform a full twisting standing back tuck on the balance beam, this skill helped Sam win the beam title at the NCAA Women’s Championships. UCLA also placed 2nd in the Team Competition at those championships. She also was a first team All-American on the beam in 2011. In 2012 at the NCAA Championships UCLA placed 3rd as a team and Sam placed 7th on the Beam earning another first team All-American on the event.
In the 2012-2013 season Sam was forced to redshirt due to an Achilles tendon tear. In 2013 Sam became a NACGC/W Scholastic All-American for the third consecutive year. She also was also inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame along with her 2007 World Championship Teammates.
In 2014, Sam was heeled and ready to compete for UCLA again, at the 2014 Pac 12 Championships Sam earned the beam title, finished 2nd in the all-around and UCLA finished 4th as a team. As 2015 approached Sam decided to use her final year of NCAA eligibility and competed as a super senior. In her super senior year Samantha went out with style at the 2015 NCAA Championships by becoming the co-all-around champion.
Following graduation from UCLA, Samantha worked for the Pac 12 Network as a color commentator for the 2016 Gymnastics Season, she has also done commentary for other media outlets. Sam also attends summer camps as a guest Olympian. She has done some modeling as well. Sam currently resided in Los Angeles and she along with her 2008 Olympic Teammate Alicia Sacramone, co-created the Instagram page @thegympire. Sam will also be on the NBC Media Team for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Thank you Samantha Peszek for contributing to the success of Region 5 Gymnastics in a BIG way! You have greatly inspired many of Region 5’s gymnasts, not only on the elite level, but all levels! Thank you for being a tremendous role model to our Region 5 Athletes. You will always be a cherished part of the Region 5 Family!
Here are Sam’s Routines from Olympic Trials and the Olympic Games:
***Photos provided by Google Search, Bio provided by USA Gymnastics, UCLA Gymnastics, Wikipedia. Videos Provided by Youtube Account USA Gymnastics & Fabian Delgado***