Fri, 20 May 2022

By Oliver Trust

BERLIN, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- Germany's ice hockey captain Moritz Muller doesn't mind talking about what most professional athletes don't talk about: sweets.

While coaches and nutritionists mention the disadvantages of sugar, Muller's memories are connected with the unexpected help from Chinese food company representatives attending a food-fair in Cologne decades ago.

Today sweets are only allowed in small portions for Muller, but "they once helped me to make progress in ice hockey, start a long career, and be part of German ice hockey golden years."

The surprising silver medal at the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang after a narrowly 4-3 final loss to Russia stands for the climax of the upswing. Ranked fifth in the world, Germany's ice hockey has never been that well seated.

"It might be a challenge to repeat the success, but we are full of anticipation regarding the competition in China," the 35-year-old said.

Twenty years ago, Muller's passion "for the world's best sport" faced some financial difficulties. He could hardly pay the rent for a small room while trying to make his way into professional hockey in a Cologne club.

Losing his mother at an early age, Muller left home at the age of 15 trying to follow what he experienced as his life mission.

"It was about to survive ten days. I shared a room with three Chinese guys and they supported me with sweets. That more or less was the food I had because all the rest I had to spend for the rent," Muller reports with a smile running over his face.

The Chinese sweets helped him to continue and, in the end, make his way at the Cologne Sharks.

Muller changed from a forward to a defender and experienced the turnaround in German ice hockey after former NHL professional Marco Sturm took over as the team's head coach in 2015.

"We learned to not only be happy for being around at majors but to develop ambitions to win something," he remembers.

In his perspective, this helped to develop a solid team spirit. Sturm thought the squad to want more and start games with confidence. Muller calls the upswing a mental issue.

Today it's on the Finn head coach Toni Soderholm to continue what silver-medal-coach Sturm once started before leaving the job at the end of 2018 after three years, and headed for the NHL as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Kings.

German hockey improved over the past years significantly so did the German league. Meanwhile, several Germans play for NHL clubs and the national coach can choose from far over 150 players on a high level.

The Olympic Games in Muller's perspective will always be an athlete's highlight.

"I am grateful for the experience in 2018. Now there is a new tournament ahead and we can't wait to start," the German captain said.

Ice hockey is and always will be his world, he added. "The sports thought me so much about lives important values. Humility, respect for older people and disadvantaged. I feel great gratitude for what I achieved," Muller said.

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