Top marks for exchange student Christian

NOT only has Christian Wirtz collected two senior hurling medals since arriving from Germany less than a year ago, he became one of the country’s highest-scoring Leaving Certificate students this week.

He got near-perfect scores in the Leaving Cert this week, at the end of a year in which he also won Munster and Waterford schools hurling medals.

The 17-year-old arrived to study at Blackwater Community School in Lismore last September, originally on an exchange until Easter. But after a few months in fifth year, he decided he wanted an extra challenge, moved up to sixth year and applied to sit the Leaving Certificate.

Staying with the family of Pat and Aideen Fitzgerald in Salterbridge, he started pucking a sliotar around with locals soon after arriving and made it onto the school’s senior hurling panel. He made appearances as a substitute in their victories in the finals of the Munster Senior Colleges C championship and the Waterford Colleges Championship.

“I’d never even heard of hurling before I came here, but I really enjoyed it,” he said.

In what little spare time he had from study, Christian was also a bass singer in the school’s chamber choir which won a national competition in Macroom, Co Cork, before Easter.

“I’d done a bit of choral singing back in Germany, but it was great to be involved here. I missed my friends at home early on and when the pressure was on before the Leaving Certificate,” he said.

He has, however, been back home in Frechen near Cologne since the exams finished in June, returning this week to collect his results. With 590 points — including A1s in maths, German, applied maths, physics and chemistry — he is eligible for the place he sought at Trinity College in Dublin on a four-year degree in advanced materials physics and chemistry.

“I got an A2 in French but I’m going to appeal that, it would be great to say I got the maximum 600 points.”

None of the staff at the school was surprised at the teenager’s success, according to Blackwater Community School principal Denis Ring.

“We’ve had dozens of exchange students from France, Spain and Germany in the past, but his achievements are amazing for the little time he has spent here,” he said.

But while the principal’s spare time is spent as a selector for Cork’s under-21 hurling team preparing for an all-Ireland semi-final soon, Christian spent the summer at home shouting for Waterford up to their all-Ireland semi-final defeat last weekend.

“I was able to tune into live commentary on the radio, all my family thought it was mad shouting for a team and a sport they knew nothing about,” he said.

For his proud parents Constantin and Kirsten, his sister Sarah and brother Daniel, Christian’s huge achievement are also a cause of sadness as it means he will be studying in Ireland for another four years. But the biggest consolation for him is that he would not be finished school for another two years if he had gone back to classes in Germany.

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