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Kira Walkenhorst, Olympic beach volleyball champ, eyes comeback

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Kira Walkenhorst, the 2016 Olympic beach volleyball champion who quit the sport in January due to injuries, reportedly wants to return to Germany’s domestic tour in 2020 but isn’t yet ready for an international comeback.

Walkenhorst, 28, said she is pain-free after struggling through hip and rib injuries and six shoulder operations that left her unable to pick up her triplets when wife Maria gave birth nine months ago, according to German Press Agency DPA.

Walkenhorst announced her leave on Jan. 7, with the FIVB reporting she retired.

“I had to make a super tough decision in the last weeks of rehab,” was posted on Walkenhorst’s Instagram that day. “It seems like my body just doesn’t want me to be a professional athlete any more. I don’t know how long it will take to be able to play and practice again.”

Walkenhorst and Laura Ludwig dropped just one set en route to the Rio Olympic title, sweeping both Brazilian pairs in the last two matches. They also claimed the 2017 World title, but Walkenhorst has not played internationally since September 2017.

Ludwig, 33, took all of 2018 off to become a mother and returned in April with a new partner, Maggie Kozuch. They haven’t made a quarterfinal in six events together and lost in the round of 32 at last week’s world championships, putting them in danger of not making the Tokyo Games.

MORE: Kerri Walsh Jennings has earliest Olympic/worlds exit of career

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Russian men take beach volleyball world title; U.S. gets 4th

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Russia had not put multiple beach volleyball teams into an Olympics until 2008. It didn’t make an Olympic quarterfinal until 2016. But now it has a world title.

Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy ended a Cinderfella run by Germans Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler, taking gold, 19-21, 21-17, 15-11, in Hamburg on Sunday.

The Germans, without any international event titles, were looking to become the youngest male or female team to win an Olympic or world title. Instead, Krasilnikov, 28, and Stoyanovskiy, 22 and the youngest Olympic or world champion in history, scored a breakthrough for Russia.

Krasilnikov, who is 6 feet, 5 inches, had earned bronze at the 2017 Worlds and finished fourth at the Rio Games with different partners. He and the 6-foot-9 Stoyanovskiy paired 10 months ago and have reached the semifinals in seven of their nine international events.

Thole and Wickler nearly completed an incredible week.

In the four previous playoff rounds, the Germans beat 2013 World champions Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen, 2016 Olympic champion Alison and his new partner, Alvaro, 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena and the world’s alpha team, Norwegians Anders Mol and Christian Sørum.

“In no other stadium we would have won this game,” Wickler said of beating the Norwegian Beach Volley Vikings.

Mol and Sorum, who came into worlds having won eight of their last 11 international events, rebounded for bronze. They denied Americans Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb a surprise medal and extended the U.S. men’s Olympic and world podium drought to 10 years.

Bourne and Crabb’s best finish among the U.S. pairs boosts them in Olympic qualifying, which is past the halfway point. They’re in the mix with Dalhausser and Lucena and three-time Olympian Jake Gibb and Bourne’s brother, Taylor Crabb for a maximum of two Olympic spots.

The FIVB World Tour continues with a five-star event in Gstaad, Switzerland, this week, featuring all of the major U.S. teams.

MORE: Kerri Walsh Jennings has earliest Olympic/worlds exit of career

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Germany will not defend Olympic women’s soccer title

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The German women’s soccer team was eliminated from the World Cup and from defending its Olympic title on Saturday.

Sweden’s 2-1 win in the World Cup quarterfinals ensured that these will be the European nations at the 2020 Olympics — Great Britain, Netherlands and Sweden.

In a change from 2016, there is no separate UEFA Olympic women’s qualifying tournament; only the top three countries from the World Cup go to Tokyo, which ended up being the three teams that reached the semifinals along with the U.S.

So the world’s second- and fourth-ranked teams (Germany, France) will not be at the Olympics. The top-ranked U.S. can qualify for Tokyo at a CONCACAF tournament in 2020.

Germany beat Sweden 2-1 in the 2016 Olympic final to join the U.S. and Norway as the only nations to win Olympic women’s soccer gold.

Norway is the only other nation to fail to qualify for the Olympics after winning the women’s soccer title four years earlier, missing the Athens 2004 event.

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