A Golden Comeback for Kira

02.08.2020 - Vienna, Austria

After 23 months of inactivity, the Olympic champion couldn't have done better in her return

Once a Queen, always a Queen. The popular saying couldn’t be more appropriate to summarize Kira Walkenhorst’s beach volleyball return as, after 23 months of inactivity, the Rio 2016 Olympic champion reappeared at the German Tour in Düsseldorf this weekend and did so in impressive fashion, securing a spot at the German Championship with new partner Anna-Lena Grüne. 

Closely watched by longtime partner Laura Ludwig, Kira couldn’t have started her march back to the top in a better way as the 29-year-old star and the 18-year-old Grüne won all of their four matches at the “Road to Timmendorf” tournament this weekend.  

Their fourth and final victory, a 25-23, 21-14 triumph against Constanze Bieneck and Julika Hoffman, qualified the recently-formed team to the German Championship, which will happen in Timmendorf Strand, from September 3-6. 

“We just wanted to compete here to know each other better and to be in a position where we could play the next tournament in Hamburg,” the 2017 world champion reflected. “To get that level of success right from the start was great. I’m glad things worked that well for us and that my body could handle the competition.” 

Kira, who hadn’t stepped on a sand court since the summer of 2018, when she last competed at the German Tour, has dealt with a series of shoulder and knee injuries and had her comeback to the sport was repeatedly postponed by Pfeiffer’s glandular fever. 

In Düsseldorf, Kira had to deal with a set of new challenges besides her long inactivity as to play with the left-handed Grüne she moved from her preferred right side to the left and split the blocking and defensive duties with her partner. 

“My main goal here was to play without pain,” she added. “The biggest question I wanted to answer was if I could go through an entire tournament without having to deal with pain. It was very hot and that didn’t help, but the joy to be back overweight everything.”  

The other two teams that qualified to the German Championship were Larissa Claassen/Nina Interviews and Svenja Müller/Sarah Schulz. 

In the “Top Teams” tournament, the gold medal match had the presence of three international athletes as Swiss Tanja Hüberli, partnering with German Isabel Schneider, defeated Czechs Michala Kvapilová and Michaela Kubícková 21-16, 21-11.

“I didn’t expect it at all,” Hüberli, who replaced the injured Victoria Bieneck, said. “We had just one training session before the event and it was a wild one. I thought things wouldn’t work for us and I’m glad I was wrong at the end.”  

German top teams of Laura Ludwig/Maggie Kozuch and Chantal Laboureur/Sandra Ittlinger tied for third place.

The German Tour remains in Düsseldorf for a fourth and final week of competition with the men returning to the sand from August 7-9. The women will play again from August 14-16, in Hamburg.