April Ross, Alix Klineman
FIVB

April Ross, Alix Klineman win biggest title of their young partnership

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April Ross and Alix Klineman notched the biggest title of their two-year beach volleyball partnership and consolidated their lead in U.S. Olympic qualifying on Sunday.

Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Klineman, in her third beach season since switching from indoor, won an FIVB World Tour Major Series event in Gstaad, Switzerland. Major events carry the most Olympic qualifying points of any tournament outside the world championships.

Ross and Klineman, who earned world champs silver a week ago, swept three-time Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat 21-17, 21-13 in Saturday’s quarterfinals.

Then on Sunday, they swept Swiss Tanja Hüberli and Nina Betschart 22-20, 21-17 in the semifinals and rallied past Brazilians Maria Antonelli and Carol Salgado 15-21, 21-17, 15-12 in the final.

Ross and Klineman have won four FIVB World Tour events since they began playing together at the start of the 2018 season. They’ve made at least the quarterfinals in their last 11 World Tour events.

Ross and Walsh Jennings split in 2017, less than a year after taking bronze in Rio. Ross earned world silver with Lauren Fendrick in 2017 before picking up former Stanford indoor player Klineman later that year.

Ross and Klineman have a comfortable lead for one of two U.S. Olympic spots more than halfway through the two-year qualifying window. Walsh Jennings and Sweat are in second place after a boost as the only other U.S. pair to make the quarterfinals in Gstaad.

There is one more major event this season in two weeks in Vienna.

MORE: Olympic beach volleyball champion eyes comeback

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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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