German Fernandez views his career as sunlight beaming between clouds after a heavy rain.
He is turning the page, as ballplayers say, after what he called a three-year "rough patch" at Oklahoma State. Time to start anew for Fernandez, an NCAA champion targeting glory until illness and a series of injuries sapped his body and spirit.
"I'm going in the right direction to get my momentum and my confidence back," the Riverbank High product maintained this week. "I know I can do special things."
So does Nike, which quickly signed Fernandez after his graduation from Oklahoma State. He wore the OSU colors for the last time at the Olympic Trials, where he reached the semifinals of the 1,500 meters. Not long before, he placed 10th at the NCAA Championships.
The results were modest but slightly misleading. Fact was, Fernandez was pleased. He was 100 percent healthy, which had become almost a foreign sensation to him.
Refreshed and inspired by the Americans' breakthrough performance at the London Games, Fernandez wishes to join the Olympic samba dance four years from now in Rio de Janeiro.
As he wraps up six weeks of altitude training at Flagstaff, Ariz., Fernandez soon will travel to Europe for some summer competition. He seeks personal progress in what surely will be a long and lonely climb.
"I don't want to just get to the Olympics," he said. "I want to get there and medal."
He watched on TV as the Americans surprisingly delivered in London. Galen Rupp's silver in the 10,000 meters was the first medal in that event by a USA athlete since Billy Mills' stunning victory in 1964 (Fernandez broke two of Rupp's high school records at Riverbank).
Later, Leonel Manzano captured silver in the 1,500. He was the first to medal since Jim Ryun's silver at the 1968 Games in Mexico City.
"We shocked a lot of countries," Fernandez said, "and I've still got time to get there."
Here's his plan: He will train near Nike headquarters in Portland, Ore., and will be coached by Jerry Schumacher. Nike lured the coach from his dream job at Wisconsin, and now Schumacher's job is to rehab the former phenom.
Alberto Salazar, the Nike coach who guided both Rupp and 2-time British gold medalist Mo Farah (5,000 and 10,000) to Olympic greatness, has called Schumacher "the best distance running coach in America."
His reputation was enhanced by his coaching of former Olympic bronze medalist Shalane Flanagan and other American standouts such as Chris Solinsky, Matt Tegenkamp and Lisa Koll. Fernandez will join Schumacher's 13-member team.
"German is one of those guys who has the ability and wants to be good. He's got the right mix I'm looking for," Schumacher said. "He did some really great things at Oklahoma State. I think he's excited to see if has that next level in him."
Fernandez, with Schumacher in charge, has flown into his first days as a pro. Armed with his degree, he eagerly waived his final season of eligibility at OSU. He had barely four weeks to train this spring injuries shortened his indoor season before the closing meets.
"I was racing myself into shape," he said. "I was playing the catchup game."
Fernandez always seemed ahead of the game at Riverbank. He made history in his final prep event, the 2008 CIF Track and Field Championships, at Cerritos College in Norwalk.
For starters, he won the 1,600 with a time of 4:00.29 and set a state-meet record. Two hours later, he logged a winning 8:34.23 in the 3,200, shattering the national high school record. The crowd chanted, "German! German!" by race's end.
He also was crowned the Nike Outdoor national champion in the 2-mile with an 8:34.40 that easily broke a 29-year-old record. It was no surprise when Fernandez was named the Gatorade National Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
Fernandez only accelerated as an Oklahoma State freshman. He won the Big 12 Conference title cross country title. The following spring (2009), he led from start to finish to win the NCAA title in the 1,500 (3:39), the Cowboys' first national title in 23 years.
"I felt I was unstoppable," he said.
But in fact, Fernandez needed a break. Back-to-back busy seasons took their toll.
"My body needed a physical and mental rest," he said.
Though injuries and anemia slowed him, Fernandez still contributed to the Cowboys' NCAA cross country title as a sophomore. In 2010, he placed eighth at the NCAA Cross Country Championships and was one of the leaders of another national-title team.
But he sat out the 2010 outdoor season. The injuries made running a forced thing. Though he recovered enough to place 11th at the NCAAs in cross country in 2011, he still wasn't peaking.
Worse, Fernandez has heard all the theories about him: Over-raced early in his career, injury-prone, should have stayed on the West Coast, etc.
"It's not fun to be in Stillwater when you're not running," he said. "I've had a lot of pressure on my shoulders. There were times when I was doing everything right and nothing was going right. I was thinking, 'What had I done to deserve such a punishment?"
Fernandez's graduation and new start, however, appears to have helped him. That he's finally healthy is even better. His talent goes unargued in the world of distance running. Reaching all that potential continues to be his challenge.
"I'm happy to enjoy running again and having fun with it," he said. "I want to run to be remembered."
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2302.