When Samantha Peszek declared at five years old that she wanted to be an Olympic gymnast, no one took her too seriously.

“People didn't believe me, because I wasn't very good at gymnastics at that time,” she recalls.

Chasing the dream

But that statement was the beginning of a long road of hard work and dedication that ultimately landed Peszek as a member of the United States' silver-medal-winning women's gymnastics team at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Today, she’s an advocate for getting other girls involved in sports, not just for the health benefits they provide but also for the life lessons they teach along the way.

“Sports and gymnastics have impacted my life and set the tone for my career in such positive ways, and they can do the same for other females too,” she says.

A range of experience

“I have my whole life ahead of me to continue proving to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to.”

While qualifying for the Olympic team was of course gratifying, Peszek feels her biggest accomplishment has been competing in gymnastics at every available level, from the Junior Olympic and Elite National Team programs to the Olympics, the World Championships and her UCLA NCAA team.

“The fact I was able to experience gymnastics at literally every single level is a really special accomplishment to me,” she says.

A new adventure

Though she’s retired from elite competitions, Peszek is still dedicated to sports and shares her love of gymnastics with others. She recently launched the Gympire, a gymnastics-based fitness community, with one her former Olympic teammates.

“We wanted to create a community that would inspire each other to stay fit with gymnastics conditioning,” she says of the endeavor.

A PERFECT 10: Encouraging young girls to pursue their dreams isn't all Peszek wants to accomplish; she wants to set an example that anything is possible when you set your mind to it.

A lifetime of athletics

She’s also an advocate for girls in sports, not just to promote healthy lifestyles but also to empower them to overcome challenges. Her advice to parents wanting to get their girls interested in sports is to expose them to as many activities as possible at a young age, from showing them sports on television to taking them sporting events. “If my parents didn't take me to the meets or sporting events, I would never have been as interested,” she says.

Today, she’s applying the life lessons she’s learned — like patience and perseverance — as she tries her hand at new sports including snowboarding, water-skiing, tennis and golf. “I have to remind myself that I'm starting over and it's a new path,” she says. “I have my whole life ahead of me to continue proving to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to.”