AUGUSTA, Maine — In order to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team, you have to make it through boot camp.
Two gymnasts from the 2008 U.S. women's Olympic team came to Maine over the weekend to coach the next generation of athletes in a sport they've competed in at the highest level.
Samantha Peszek and Bridget Sloan, both silver medalists won as a team during the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing, were in Augusta Saturday and Sunday hosting the Beam Queen Boot camp two-day clinic.
The goal of the clinic is to give gymnasts the tools and confidence they need to master the balance beam.
"I had such a great experience in this sport so I want to give the opportunity to these gymnasts coming up to have the same opportunity that I did," said Peszek.
Peszek and Sloan stand on the other end of the balance beam now, as coaches to the next generation of gymnasts.
"I remember Jamie Dantzscher was my idol," said Sloan, thinking back to Olympic gymnasts who inspired her at a young age. "I met her one time and I couldn't speak. It's amazing to think like I'm that now."
Peszek knows the majority of gymnasts will not compete on the biggest stage at the Olympics like she once did. She inspires young gymnasts in her boot camp to make their own goals, whether those be Olympic level, college level, or just as a hobby, and follow through with those goals just as they would on the balance beam.
"You say something in your head to make you more confident to go for it," said Thorndike 5th grader, Mylee Grant.
"This Beam Queen Boot camp and gymnastics in general really teaches you about goal-setting, how to achieve those goals, and how to really stay focused and disciplined until you can accomplish those goals," added Peszek.
Peszek, Sloan, and their team of coaches are traveling around the country this summer in the program's third year. Maine-ly Gymnastics in Augusta was their first stop and the only one in New England.
"I've traveled all over the world for gymnastics competing, coaching, all of the above, and I've never made it to Maine," said Peszek. "For me to have an opportunity to come to a new state, to try a lobster roll for the first time, to explore Augusta and Portland, has really been special not only for me but for the staff as well."
Following a year of difficult headlines for U.S. gymnastics, Peszek and Sloan are looking to change the narrative about the sport and the organization that has given them so much over the course of more than 40 combined years.
"We just want to shed some really positive light on a great sport," said Sloan.
The Beam Queen Boot camp is touring seven states this summer and inspiring young gymnasts to chase their dreams all along the way. For more information on the boot camp, click here.