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Gymnast with Gumption
 

“Pain is temporary, pride is forever”—that’s a motto that gets under your skin. Olympic gymnast Marcel Nguyen also wears it on his chest. As a tattoo. Christophorus talks with him about luck, hard work, risk, and his plans for life after competition.

You have tattoos and an undercut. Gymnastics is getting cooler by the day, right?

I’m part of a very active generation that has probably also brought a breath of fresh air to the sport.

You won two silver medals at the London Olympics in 2012. In 2016, you were one of the favorites on the bars. What prevented you from winning a medal in Rio?

In gymnastics you always need a little luck. There is something subjective about the sport. But I know that my routine on the bars is one of the best in the world, in substance and in terms of individual moves. So what happened in Rio is spurring me on to become even better in the future.

What part of gymnastics would you say is the most important?

Everything comes down to preparation. I’m very aware of the risks associated with the sport. But fear has no place in the gym. If you’re afraid, you may as well stay home. I try to prepare myself as well as possible. You have to walk a fine line between risk and stability. You have to keep that in mind when developing your routine. It’s very important to get the relationship between those two factors right.

You have an extremely powerful body. Does your mind set any limits on it?

I never used to think about degrees of difficulty; I just tried everything out. But the older you get, the more you think about whether what you’re doing makes sense.

Can you imagine a life without chalk on your hands?

That’s hard. I was four when I started doing gymnastics. It will always be a part of my life. I won’t always be able to compete professionally, but I would very much like to work as a coach when my active career is over.

How long will you continue doing high-level competitions?

The Artistic Gymnastics World Championships will take place in Stuttgart in 2019. That’s a home game for me, which could enable me to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. I could win a medal there and retire after that.

Will you then become an amateur race-car driver and apply your drive to the Nordschleife of the Nürburgring?

Perhaps! My Cayman GT4 is absolutely the right car for racing. To drive at a high level is extremely difficult and requires a lot of practice. But I really enjoy it. And when my gymnastics career is over, I’ll need some new challenges.

Interview by Oliver Hilger
Photo by Thomas Niedermüller

Marcel Nguyen

A native of Munich, Nguyen was born in 1987 and started doing gymnastics at the age of four. He joined the top German squad when he was ten. The 29-year-old now lives in Munich and Stuttgart and has competed in three Olympic Games. He came home from two of them with silver medals. He won gold on the bars at the European Championships two years in a row, in 2011 and 2012. He introduced a new move on the bars in Rio de Janeiro in 2016—a move that now officially bears his name.