The UCLA gymnastics team received some bad news this week – junior Samantha Peszek will not compete this year after tearing her right Achilles tendon at a practice before winter break.

“When Sam tore her Achilles, it was the last day we trained before going on the holiday break. It was literally the last routine of the day. It kind of took the wind out of everybody’s sails,” coach Valorie Kondos-Field said.

Peszek was a member of the US Olympic team that took the silver medal in 2008 at the Summer Olympics in Beijing. Her collegiate awards include 2011 NCAA balance beam champion, 2012 first-team All-American and second-team All-Pac-12 on beam, and Scholastic All-American for both 2011 and 2012.

Despite the temporary loss of a talented gymnast – Peszek is expected to be competition-ready for next season – the team has responded positively. Minus Peszek, UCLA defeated Southern Utah in its season opener on Sunday.

“You never want an athlete to get injured, but I would say our team has responded as well as any coach would want them to in that situation,” Kondos-Field said.

Senior Vanessa Zamarripa, who won the all-around in the season opener against Southern Utah, agreed that although this is not a good situation, she has faith that her team can be successful.

“The whole team can step up and be really great when everyone does their best,” Zamarripa said.

One person who says she has complete faith in her teammates’ abilities is Peszek.

Even from the sidelines, she is an ardent supporter of the UCLA gymnastics team.

“Personally, it was so hard to watch and not compete,” Peszek said.

“But, to go in and watch a team that I feel confident about and feel so passionately about and I know they have been working so hard, and watch them do well was awesome for me.”

Currently, Peszek is in a boot and going through physical therapy so that she can make a speedy recovery. She is able to swim and bike as of right now.

Despite her physical limitations, Peszek maintains that her injury has not stopped her from continuing to pursue her goals.

“I’ve already thought about coming back and new routines and skills and everything I want to do,” Peszek said.
“I have one more year to get my goals accomplished.”