Kira Walkenhorst

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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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German Olympic champions sweep year’s two biggest beach volleyball tournaments

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Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst continued to dominate the international beach volleyball scene, adding the World Tour Finals title Saturday to go along with their victory at the world beach volleyball championships earlier this month.

Playing in front of their home fans in Hamburg, the German pair defeated Brazil’s Agatha Bednarczuk and Duda Lisboa 21-17, 19-21, 15-10.

They also won the two most prestigious beach volleyball tournaments of 2016: the Rio Olympics and World Tour Finals.

“I’m speechless,” Ludwig said to reporters in Hamburg. “Being an Olympic champion is great, being a world champion is great, but winning the World Tour Finals here in front of the German fans in Hamburg was just awesome.”

Two U.S. teams, April Ross and Lauren Fendrick as well as Brooke Sweat and Summer Ross, finished tied for ninth in Hamburg.

Earlier this month, Ross and Fendrick earned the silver medal at the world beach volleyball championships, less than three months into their partnership. Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, said the pair will reevaluate their partnership at the end of this season.

On the men’s side, the U.S. pair of Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena will play Poland’s Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak in the semifinals on Sunday.

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MORE: The beach volleyball player who turned down Kerri Walsh Jennings

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April Ross, Lauren Fendrick take surprise silver at beach volleyball worlds

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Fewer than three months into their partnership, April Ross and Lauren Fendrick nearly scaled to the top of their sport.

Ross, the two-time Olympic medalist, and Fendrick, a Rio Olympian herself, took home silver from the world beach volleyball championships in Vienna on Saturday.

The Americans fell 19-21, 21-13, 15-9 in the final to German Olympic champions Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst.

Few expected the 35-year-olds to get that far, becoming the first U.S. men or women to earn world medals since Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor‘s silver in 2011.

Ross, after her split from triple Olympic champion Walsh Jennings, teamed up with Fendrick in the spring.

Ross has one of the top résumés in the sport — 2009 World gold and 2012 Olympic silver with Jennifer Kessy and 2016 Olympic bronze with Walsh Jennings.

But Fendrick came to Austria having never made a top-level international tournament final in 97 appearances dating to her 2008 debut, according to Bvbinfo.com.

In Vienna, Ross and Fendrick swept through their pool — dropping one set across three matches — and toughed out bracket play, needing the full three sets in the round of 32, round of 16 and the semifinals to meet the German champions.

Later on Saturday, the last remaining U.S. men’s team, Beijing Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, was eliminated by Russia’s Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Nikita Liamin in the quarterfinals.

The men’s semifinals and final will be played on Sunday. None of the teams from the Rio Olympic quarterfinals are still alive.

The U.S. was without its biggest star in Vienna. Walsh Jennings, 38, is missing worlds after dislocating her five-times surgically repaired right shoulder in a match with new partner Nicole Branagh two weeks ago.

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MORE: The beach volleyball player who turned down Kerri Walsh Jennings

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