“It was late. But I’ve acclimated my sleep schedule. Felt really good physically, felt AWESOME mentally. This is my fourth year, so I know what’s necessary to get the results that I want. And I did it. Came out, felt great, brought my A game and hit a buzzer.”
Those were Daniel Gil’s words when we caught up with him after the Dallas Qualifiers. Daniel had torn through the course in just 1:40.79 and taken down the new 18-foot Mega Wall. This gave him a confidence boost before the City Finals, and $10,000 to boot.
“My thoughts on the obstacles were: Nice and easy. Not necessarily slow but don’t rush yourself to the point that you make a mistake. I’ve trained a lot on speed so I actually wasn’t going as fast as I possibly could. I was going at a nice 85, 90 precent of my speed.”
To put that into perspective, the second fastest competitor, Matthew Day, hit the buzzer at 2:09.62. Daniel Gil cleared the course almost 30 seconds faster... and he wasn’t even giving his full effort.
But let’s get to the good part, shall we? Daniel Gil breezed up the Mega Wall after seven other accomplished Ninjas had failed.
“Going into the 18 footer, I had doubts. I’ve been training legs so I felt really strong, but I didn’t know how gassed or winded I would feel getting to the Warped Wall. But once I got there, I felt great. Ran, did a few steps, didn’t think I made it actually.
But I reached up and was like, ‘Well at least I tried... OH MY GOSH MY HAND’S ON IT.’ Pulled myself up and hit that buzzer!
My wife and I have been praying for a house so this could be a great down payment on a house back home in Houston.”
So how does Daniel Gil pull off these feats almost every time he steps on the course? To hear him tell it, it’s about getting into the right frame of mind.
“People don’t give enough credit to the mental state you have to be in when you run these courses. A lot of people train as hard as they can and get as strong as they can. But when they step up to the course they’ve got the lights, the cameras, the screaming audience, the water, and the obstacles they’ve never touched before.
Your heart will start pounding out of your chest, and if you’re not prepared mentally, if you don’t have the mind set to calm yourself, and move forward, that’s the reason most people fall, because they make a mental lapse in judgement and don’t reach far enough, don’t hit the trampoline hard enough.
I work on my mental strength though a lot of visualization. I have a background in theater and dance and performing arts, and there’s the saying that the show must go on. I had to deal with a lot of these issues in high school, performing. You step up to the stage. You’ve got the lights, the cameras and the nerves. You think, ‘I’m prepared for this. I’ve practiced. I know what needs to be done and I can push through it.’ Like everything else that I’ve done, the more you do it, the better you get. That prepared me for American Ninja Warrior.
As soon as I see what obstacles I’m going to be competing on, I do it in my head a thousand times, over and over. To where when I step up for the actual course run, I feel like I’ve already done it.”
This was just the start of the season for Daniel. He’ll return for the Dallas City Finals and he’s favored to move on to the National Finals for what could be his fourth year in a row. And Daniel has big plans once he gets there.
“My expectations for myself this year, like every year, is to go farther. The farthest I’ve gone is Stage Three, so this year it’s Stage Four. I feel stronger than ever. I feel healthier than ever and I’m ready to take on the even more difficult courses they’re going to throw at us this season.”