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Kelly Cheng, Betsi Flint earn big win for U.S. beach volleyball as Olympic qualifying nears

Kelly Cheng, Betsi Flint

13 August 2022, Hamburg: Beach Volleyball, Beach Pro Tour, Stadion am Rothenbaum. Betsi Flint (l) and Kelly Cheng (USA) in action. They defeated the German duo in the semifinals. Photo: Michael Schwartz/dpa (Photo by Michael Schwartz/picture alliance via Getty Images)

dpa/picture alliance via Getty I

Olympian Kelly Cheng (née Claes) and new partner Betsi Flint won a top-level international beach volleyball tournament in Hamburg last week, the biggest title for an American pair since the Tokyo Olympics.

Cheng and Flint won the World Beach Pro Tour Elite 16 event in Hamburg, Germany. Elite 16 events debuted this year. They have smaller fields than other international events, limited to 16 teams based on world ranking points, and are similar in prestige to the previous Grand Slams and Majors.

Cheng and Flint won all six matches in Hamburg, including victories over Brazilians Talita and Rebecca and Germans Karla Borger and Julia Sude, all Olympians.

The world’s top teams from recent seasons -- Olympic gold medalists April Ross and Alix Klineman of the U.S., Olympic silver medalists Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar of Australia, 2022 World champions Duda and Ana Patricia of Brazil and 2019 World champions Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes of Canada -- were not entered in Hamburg.

Qualifying for 2024 Olympic beach volleyball starts Jan. 1. It is similar to past Olympics, with no more than two teams per gender per nation able to qualify.

Last year, Cheng and then-partner Sarah Sponcil rallied to take the second and last U.S. women’s Olympic spot from legend Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat. Cheng and Sponcil were eliminated in the round of 16 in Tokyo, then ended their partnership.

Walsh Jennings, who turned 44 on Monday, is expected to decide on a possible 2024 Olympic run later this year. Walsh Jennings said in April that she hoped to play with 2000 Olympic indoor teammate Logan Tom.

Ross and Klineman have not played together this year after Klineman underwent shoulder surgery in January.

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