For some time now Christopher Rühr has been one of Germany’s rising stars. He was selected for the Under-21 side in 2011 and his first tournament for the that side was the Junior European Championships. He shot to prominence in the 2013 Hockey Junior World Cup when he emerged as top scorer and scored the final goal of the tournament in Germany’s 5-2 win over France.
Christopher had already made his senior debut by the time of the Hockey Junior World Cup – in December 2012 in the Hockey Champions Trophy against New Zealand – and that match had set the mark for the future as he scored his first senior goal in Germany’s 3-2 win over New Zealand's Blacksticks.
Speaking about the 2013 Junior World Cup, Christopher says: “I only have good memories. We won the title, played an extraordinary tournament and it was great fun too! Nearly all players of the 2013 squad were and still are close friends, which is a huge factor that lead us to the best performances we could bring onto the pitch.
“I think it was a really special situation for us back then. As I said, most of us were close friends and we had so much fun on and off the pitch. Ten players of the Junior World Cup team, including myself, play club hockey for Rot-Weiss Köln these days, so we talk about that time quite often, because there are so many amazing memories, we will never forget. I am so proud to play for my country and to be one of the players the youth looks up to. It doesn't change a tiny bit as you get older.”
As a senior player, Christopher has had some amazing matches but none compare to the Quarter-Finals at the Rio Olympics when Germany managed one of the greatest comeback matches in the history of Olympic hockey. The team were 2-0 down with four minutes to play and emerged 3-2 winners after Mo Fürste (two goals) and Florian Fuchs dragged them back from the brink of defeat.
“There are no words to describe that match,” laughs Christopher. Playing for the senior national squad is a step up for any junior and Christopher is clear about the gap between junior and senior hockey: “This (senior hockey) is really the best of the best you're playing against. You have to get used to the tempo, be self-confident and become an adult on the pitch really fast. The whole tempo is a surprise at the beginning and that is the biggest difference too. People defend better and are more physical. You only have a tenth of the time you have at the juniors to receive the ball, before the defender gets to you. It's a whole other level.”
At this year’s Uttar Pradesh Hockey Junior World Cup Men in Lucknow, there will be several players who have already experienced the big time at the Rio Olympics and Christopher says there will be a lot of pressure on these players to stand up and lead the team. For Germany, that person is Timm Herzbruch, but he adds: “There are other players in the German squad who have played senior and must take their share of the pressure.”
Follow Christopher on Twitter: @jcruehr