What's your game plan?
German gymnast Marcel Nguyen has achieved something that probably every athlete in his sport is dreaming of: He created a new element at the parallel bars that’s been named after him. But apart from leaving his mark on Gymnastics and winning two silver medals at the Olympic Games, the 30-year-old is also good at giving advice on how to deal with pressure situations and reaching big goals.
This is Marcel Nguyen’s game plan.
As a gymnast, your sport is fueled by creativity. How come you’ve created your own element, the “Nguyen”?
It’s always been my dream to make history in gymnastics. And when I realized that I’m really good in performing a free hip circle mount from the side of the bars with a quarter turn to handstand position, the idea was born to extend it by a half turn. I started to train this element, the “Nguyen”, over and over, officially registered it and then showcased it at the Olympic Games (in Brazil).
That’s what I like about my sport: You can try out everything, also because the technical equipment is always evolving and makes it more secure to try out crazy ideas as well.
People see you delivering world-class performances. But what they don’t see is the hard work and the setbacks you have to deal with. How do you stay motivated?
Instead of working towards one huge goal, I focus on smaller, more achievable ones. I’m setting myself targets I want to reach within the next week or days and not months. For example, I’m often challenging myself to perform specific elements three or five times in the course of the day, and then I try to link it to other skills.
How do you prepare for your performance on competition day?
I’m simulating the big day already in my training before (the event). For example, when I have to perform my routine in a competition at 8 am in the morning, I’m adjusting my training the weeks before in a way that I’m wide awake in the mornings already. On the day of the competition I would wake up at 5 am at the latest to have breakfast.
How do you control your nerves?
I try to stay relaxed just before and during my routine. I’ve had the experience of wanting something too much, and I became way too cramped to reach my peak performance. Therefore, I try to joke around a bit with my coach or other athletes.
But dealing with nerves is also something that I’ve learned over the years.
Your tattoo says ''Pain is temporary, pride is forever''. What makes you proud?
I’m proud of what I’ve achieved in my sport and my ambitious nature. In the end, being awarded for what I’ve been pushing for for so long is simply a really, really good feeling.
And what’s the price you have to pay to be proud of yourself?
That’s physical pain and some other hardships that you have to get used to as professional athlete. I can’t eat whatever I want and I don’t see my family as often as I would like to. But in the end, it’s all worth it.