Follow the Pac-12 to Rio: Pac-12 Networks Women's Gymnastics
It’s time to follow the Pac-12 to Rio! Leading into the 2016 Olympic games, Pac-12 Networks Insider will profile its on-air talent with Olympic ties. Whether they’re broadcasters, competitors or have accomplished both feats, we have you covered.
This week, Pac-12 Networks Insider features two women’s gymnastics analysts, Amanda Borden and Sam Peszek.
I remember thinking, ‘I’m just Amanda. I’m 19 years old, and I’m from Finneytown, Ohio. I just want to have fun today.’
That’s what Amanda Borden told herself before she stepped on the mat.
In an Indiana household, Peszek was watching Borden as a five-year-old in front of her television, dreaming of the day she would get to be an Olympian.
“When I was watching the 1996 Olympics, there were all the American flags in the arena. The crowd was chanting, ‘USA’...I dreamt about that moment my whole life,” Peszek said.
As if the pressure of being a regular teenager wasn’t enough for most people to handle, both Borden and Peszek experienced the Olympics as teens. Borden, as a 19-year-old, and Peszek as a 16-year-old.
“Once we started warming up, the nerves phased out a little bit. Before we marched out, a couple of the athletes started crying and getting upset,” Borden said. “I was selected team captain by my teammates, and I thought, ‘Ok, I'm the leader here. We’ve worked really hard for this. Let's take a deep breath and do what we've always done.’ mentality. That really helped us keep it together.”
Peszek cites nerves kicking in even before she stepped on the mat in Beijing: Olympic trials.
“It’s such a crazy process - meet after meet,” Peszek said. “Our biggest competition was gymnasts in our own country. But once we all made the team, they did a really great job of making it seem like it was just another meet. We obviously knew we were at the Olympics, but we were there for two weeks and doing two-a-days for training. It didn’t feel ‘special’ or like we were being looked at from everyone. We were just in our own USA bubble. We had a job to do. We were extremely focused. Only when I came back did I realize how cool and special it really was for me to be there and really appreciate it. We were just in our own moment.”
Looking back on her experience in Atlanta with the Magnificent Seven team, Borden’s most memorable times were with her teammates. They are celebrating the 20th anniversary of that U.S. Olympic team that made history winning the first ever gold medal for the United States in the women's team competition at the 1996 Summer Olympics.
“We don't always remember our scores but we remember the feelings - how great that routine felt or where we felt like we struggled," Borden said. "For me, the one unique things about competition itself was that everyone always told me about athletes being in the zone. I never got there until I was at the Olympics. I remembered doing my beam routine, and I dismounted the most perfect routine I had ever done. I thought it was so easy that I must have forgotten something. We went into autopilot for each routine, and the arena went crazy each time we dismounted.”
Peszek cites meeting other athletes and seeing how they prepare for competition was also a highlight of hers, in addition to seeing all the American flags when she walked into the stadium before competing.
“I realized that I was finally walking into the arena the same way the Magnificent Seven team did,” Peszek said. “I watched them so many times and wanted to be them! I became what my entire dream was like.
Both Borden and Peszek will be in Rio for the Olympics, with Borden as a Westwood One analyst, and Peszek with NBC Digital.
“I’m extremely excited to go back to the Olympics and experience it as a fan and as a broadcaster. It’s going to be cool for me because I know the emotional aspect that goes into competing at an Olympic games, so to be able to empathize with the girls competing and be connected in that way will be very cool.”
Check back next Monday for a feature on Pac-12 Networks softball analyst Amanda Freed.