"An unbelievable feeling. It truly is an experience I will cherish all my life." Those are the words of Kyle Fernandez, a member of the Oklahoma University (OU) 'Sooners' Men's Gymnastics team, that won the 2005 National College Athletic Association Gymnastics Championship held at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
What raises Fernandez's win to the level of extraordinary is the fact that he only recently undergone two major surgical procedures for injuries sustained in an athletic event. In 2004. the fourth-year international business and management student torn bicep and had to have it surgically reattached.
Shortly following the NCAA Championships, Fernandez received yet another accolade, this time in the academic arena. He was selected to receive The National Dean's List Honorary Award for 2004/2005. He was nominated for this by Delta Sigma Pi, the Professional Business Fraternity at Oklahoma University.
The National Dean's List is the largest recognition publication in the nation honoring exceptional college students. Only 0.5 percent of the nation's college students receive this award. Dr. Gerald Gurney, Associate Athletics Director for Academic Affairs
at Oklahoma University said, 'This is a well deserved award for Kyle who is a highly goal-driven student. He is one of those rare individuals who knows how to balance high athletic achievements with high academic and work standards.'
"I added Kyle to strengthen our Still Rings squad, knowing that we were facing an uphill task against a very strong Ohio team," said Oklahoma Head Coach, Mark Williams. He added, "despite his major shoulder injuries, Kyle did not let us down, and boosted us with a strong Rings score of 9.375. He is a fighter, and it showed today."
"I still pinch myself to make sure this is not a dream," Fernandez told rediff.com. "My first coach Danny DellaGioia from Polly's School of Gymnastics in Stratford, Connecticut, always encouraged me to push myself and pursue my dreams. While I wanted to make an impact in the sport, I never dreamed that despite my asthmatic condition and all my injuries, I would represent the top team in the country, earn an NCAA Championship Ring and compete against Olympic and World Class gymnasts."
At Oklahoma University, Fernandez was trained by the former coach of the Chinese National Team, Yuan Xiao, and 2004 Silver Medalist Olympian, Guard Young. 'Very few individuals are able to get back into competitive gymnastics after the kind of surgeries on both shoulders that Kyle went through,' Young said.
'He was able to start training seriously only in January 2005. In a little more than 3 short months, Kyle fought an uphill battle to deliver a routine and score which proved that he is back to being among the top Rings guys in the country. His tremendous determination, focus and fighting spirit will take him a long way.'
Fernandez was additionally awarded the Russel and Margaret Frakes Memorial Scholarship for 2005-2006. Prior to being recruited by Oklahoma University, Fernandez was a Dean's List student at Penn State University and a member of the Men's Gymnastics Team which won the 2003 Big East Championship.
A past member of USA Gymnastics Club of Watertown, CT, he was coached by Vinnie Pozzuoli of Milford, and Chris Moon, CT State Gymnastics Director, and was the 2001 New England Still Rings Champion, and represented the Northeast Region at the US Junior Olympic National Championships that year.
He also attended the International Gymnastics Camp (IGC) in Pennsylvania. He has taught and coached gymnastics at Polly's School of Gymnastics in Stratford. He was an honors student at Bunnell High School in Stratford, and graduated Magna cum Laude in 2001. He is also a four-year recipient of the Kate Sterling Bunnell Scholarship Award, given to a Stratford, CT student.