The first round of the American Ninja Warrior: Ninja vs Ninja playoffs was a doozy. The talented Beasts from the East, Golden Hearts, NorCal Ninjas and Iron Grip all returned to the course. It was a gritty, gutsy episode. No one backed down or let up on the speed.
In the end, Iron Grip, led by captain Daniel Gil, faced the Golden Hearts. Over four grueling heats, the teams went back and forth. It was anyone’s guess as to which team would prevail. But Iron Grip hit their stride like never before, becoming the first team cleared to the finals.
You can read a full recap of the episode here.
Team captain Daniel Gil gave us some insight on how the Iron Grip pulled together to pull through.
In the first heat, Mathis took a big fall from the Hanging Staircase when he tried to catch up to Dave Cavanagh. As a captain, what did you share with Mathis after that? How’d you bring his spirits up?
DG: As a captain, you never want to see a teammate go down like that. It’s always a hit or a miss when you’re behind your opponent trying to catch up. I remember telling Kid that stuff like that happens, but that Tiana and I were going to do our best to keep us in the Playoffs! That’s what teammates do.
In Tiana’s heat, she pulled a come-from-behind win against Erica Cook. Were you ever worried the race was over for Iron Grip?
DG: To say that I wasn’t a little worried would be a lie. But it’s not over until it’s over, so Kid and I held out in faith that if Tiana could get to the wall, she would definitely get up it on her first try! When she did it and gave our team a much needed win, we all sighed a breath of relief!
The relay against the Beasts from the East was pretty much flawless. What do you think created such great synergy for your team?
DG: I think our team naturally developed great synergy on the course from the time that we spent together off the course. Sure, we trained together in preparation for the competition but we also became really good friends in the process! I think that showed on the course every time we ran together.
In the final round, you faced the Golden Hearts. They had swept the NorCal Ninjas. What were your feelings about facing that team?
DG: As I said in our sideline interview with Alex Curry, we were really looking forward to facing the Golden Hearts. We are all really good friends off the course and knew that we could go all out during these races!
In your heat against Neil Craver, it looked like you were starting to slow and slip towards the top of the Zig Zag Climb. You still got the win, but what was going on for you at that moment?
DG: That. Was. Brutal! After watching both Kid and Grant fall on the Zig Zag Climb, I was concerned about there being condensation on the plexiglass and sure enough when I got there, there was! I literally almost fell like three times! Finally I just said “Forget it! I’m wiping my shoes right now or else I’m gonna fall!” So I locked my arms and wiped my shoes on my pants. After that the last few steps were great!
When it went to relay, again Iron Grip was perfectly in-tune with one another. What did you say to one another before that final race?
DG: We were confident that we could pull out another win and we told each other that. “Smooth is fast” like Tiana always says. As long as we stayed calm and kept a good pace, we could do it. We knew what we were capable of and knew that we could do it again.
Iron Grip is the first team clear to the finals! What would the championship mean to you and your team? What would it represent for you?
DG: We are so excited to be the first team moving on to the Finals! Taking the Championship would mean a lot to us. That is our finish line. You never start a race you don’t plan to finish and we’re that much closer to finishing Ninja vs. Ninja on top! Now that we’ve proven what we’re capable of, we’re ready to take on the Championship.
Team Iron Grip will appear once again on Ninja vs Ninja in a few weeks for the finals!