“I think it’s a good reminder that we are human. Mistakes happen,” Daniel told us when we asked him about his Qualifiers run.
During the season 13 American Ninja Warrior Qualifiers, Daniel had sprinted down the course and made a slight error on the fifth obstacle, crashing him into the water in a moment that sent gasps through the viewers. But he still placed high on the leaderboard that night due to his time. Not too shabby.
These small hiccups have not derailed Daniel this year. While he placed high during the Qualifiers, he dominated in the Semifinals with a run that was sheer perfection. Although, there was a surprise in store on the Power Tower.
Throughout American Ninja Warrior’s time in the Tacoma Dome and Los Angeles, we spoke with Daniel a few times. His words paint a picture of a competitor who knows what’s at stake and where the risks lie.
“Coming in as last year’s winner, I feel it’s put a target on my back in a lot of ways. I’m more confident now than ever before. I’m not going to change the formula for the way I’ve competed in the past. I know what I’m capable of. Honestly, it’s all just going to come down to the course. But I’m going to enjoy every single moment, just like I do every year. I’m going to run MY race.”
Daniel ran his own race on the first night of the Semifinals. He excelled on the 10-obstacle course, clearing the course with the fastest time by over a whopping two minutes. Daniel owes part of that time to a risky run across the Tuning Forks, opting to chance the balance obstacle over the upper body obstacle, Inverter. It was a testament to what Daniel calls one of his most important skills.
“Adaptability. We never know what we’re going to get on these courses. At home, training, we try as many different types of movements, different catches, different variations, just to try to prepare ourselves for what we might see on the course.”
With the momentum of his top time spurring him forward, Daniel charged into the Power Tower against Brian Burkhardt.
“Going into the Power Tower, I feel excited, I feel strong and ready. This will be my second shot at getting a Safety Pass. After not getting it my first time a few years ago, I’m coming for it.
My competition is Brian Burkhardt and I know he has what it takes to finish this course quickly. I think I have the upper hand because I’ve been on a Power Tower before. But I’m not going to give him an inch because if I give him an inch, he’s going to take a mile. We’ll see how it plays out.”
That turned out to be an eerie foreshadowing of what took place. When Daniel struggled to lock in the ring on the Power Tower that would have allowed him to begin the Salmon Ladder, Brian took his mile, shooting to the lead and winning the Safety Pass.
From the viewer’s perspective, moments like this seem hugely out of context and shocking. But a competitor as seasoned as Daniel Gil takes these lumps in stride. He’s devoted his life to the mission of inspiring others and moments like that are just more lessons he can pass along.
“Take it and use that as inspiration for your own lives. We all face obstacles of various types. Physical, mental, emotional. If we can get on this stage, and learn to overcome even if we fall and fail. Get back up quickly. Use those principles and apply them to your lives.”