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Natalie Geisenberger, Olympic luge champion, will not race this season

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For the first time in eight years, there will be a new World Cup women’s luge champion.

Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger — the seven-time defending champion and two-time defending Olympic singles gold medalist — announced that she isn’t sliding this season because she and her husband are expecting their first child in April.

“Our happiness is on the way,” Geisenberger said on her Facebook page.

Geisenberger plans to return next season and still has hopes to compete at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, where she could match fellow German great Georg Hackl’s feat of winning three consecutive singles golds.

With Geisenberger not sliding this season, the top returning women from last year’s World Cup standings now are Julia Taubitz of Germany and Summer Britcher of the U.S. — second and third, respectively, in 2018-19.

Geisenberger has a luge record-tying four Olympic golds in all, being part of Germany’s victories in the team relays in Sochi in 2014 and Pyeongchang in 2018 as well.

Her 49 World Cup singles wins are another record, and she’s one of two sliders to win seven consecutive World Cup titles — Austria’s Markus Prock took the men’s championships each year from 1990-91 through 1996-97.

Geisenberger’s break from sliding only adds to how the World Cup standings — and the German roster — will look very different this season. Dajana Eitberger, who was fourth in last season’s World Cup standings, is also pregnant and expecting a baby in February. And Tatjana Huefner, who was sixth overall last season, has retired.

Huefner won five consecutive World Cup titles before Geisenberger took over and began her seven-year streak of championships. Geisenberger earned medals 11 times in 12 singles races last year — six golds, four silvers and one bronze.

“We are so happy for you even though we will miss you this season!” two-time Olympic singles gold medalist Felix Loch of Germany wrote in a message to Geisenberger on Instagram.

Geisenberger has been in the top three of the World Cup standings in 12 consecutive seasons. She was third in 2007-08, finished second in each of the next four seasons, and then began her title streak in 2012-13.

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MORE: U.S. luge star adds doubles after Olympic singles medal

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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