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Overcoming the obstacles
Daniel Gil talks American Ninja Warrior, success, future
March 2, 2023
Daniel Gil auditioned to be on reality TV show “American Ninja Warrior” as soon as the rules allowed him to, which was when he turned 21. Since that initial audition, Gil has traveled around the world and published an inspirational children’s book with his wife, as well as currently working with Nike on a shoe line. Despite all of this success, Gil still attempts to keep in mind his roots in Houston, Texas.
“I’ve always been the monkey kid in my family,” Gil said. “I loved watching the show while growing up and so when I got my shot back in 2015 to compete on season seven of ‘American Ninja Warrior,’ I had trained for two years leading up to that, specifically for that opportunity, having full faith that I would eventually get that shot. And when I did [get the shot], I made the most of it.”
Gil has had massive success on the show, being a seven-time finalist, which he credits to his faith, as well as his early on experience in performing arts for visualizing practice to ensure his victory.
“With Ninja Warriors, specifically, these obstacle course races, you have to get very good at visualization training,” Gil said. “Being able to look at a course and then not getting to practice it, but have to do it in your head and say, ‘Okay, I have to take ‘X’ amount of steps, bounce one time on this trampoline, keep my momentum, get the height that I need, I need to catch on. How big is the diameter of what I’m reaching for? What’s the material? Is it hard? Is it soft? Is it smooth? Is it textured?’ And you literally get to where you can visualize an entire course in your head so when you’re running it on television for the very first time, it doesn’t feel as nerve-wracking because you’ve visualized it.”
For others, like Brian Parache, the manager of Ultimate Ninja Indianapolis, mentality can negatively affect their performance, if not channeled right. Panache competed in season 11 of American Ninja Warrior, but fell a few obstacles into the course. However, he will compete, along with Gil, in Season 14.
“I’m just trying to focus on getting past the mental block of what happened last time [when training,]” Parache said. “It’s really frustrating falling early, especially when everybody you trained with along with you yourself, knowing that you could’ve done better. I trained with most of the big names on the show, and they all expected me to make it to Vegas. Then falling in qualifiers and not even making it to semi-finals was not ideal. I’m just trying to just be glad that I get another chance and be as best as I can and just enjoy it regardless of what happens because not many people get to do it.”
While it might not be shown often on television, experienced and non-experienced ninjas alike get frustrated with the sport. Every episode, 100-120 competitors run the course, but only about 30 of those get air time on television, according to Parache.
Other aspects of the sport can potentially be frustrating, like getting injured, being overly sore and being limited to training, or failing at an obstacle that an athlete felt good about.
“On those days, that’s when I have to remind myself what my goals are, [and ask] ‘What am I doing this for in the first place?’” Gil said. And for me, I do it for the joy of competition. I am the most competitive person that I know. And I’ve got so many more loftier goals that require me to continue down the current path that I’m going. So even on those bad days, I’ve got a support system around me that doesn’t let me stay down.”
One of Gil’s primary goals is to motivate and inspire others into following their passions, whether they be old or young.
“I want to be for others the role model that I never had growing up,” Gil said. “All my Disney Channel role models kind of went off the deep end at one point or another…Right now in my life, I want to be the celebrity role model for other kids that I want my kids to have someday. That’s always going on in the back of my mind… We always need to have someone that we can look up to. We always need to have someone that can help pave the way and lead by example. And the whole story of overcoming obstacles is one that resonates with so many people.”
With this message in mind, Gil is soon returning to the show after two years off, one of which for COVID and the other for a training break.
“We begin filming in just under a month, so the new season’s gonna be out this summer,” Gil said. “You can watch me and my other ninja friends as we compete for ‘Ultimate Victory’ this season. There will be major changes to the format of competition this year for the TV show, so watch it because it’s gonna be really something new.”