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2018-07-17 17:50:00 CET

A fresh start for Flüggen

German defender partners with giant Nils Ehlers

Lars in action during last season's World Championships in ViennaLars in action during last season's World Championships in Vienna

Lars Flüggen has wasted no time in finding a new teammate following the retirement of Markus Böckermann.

The 2016 Olympian will partner Nils Ehlers, and the German duo are set to enter the A1 Major Vienna presented by Swatch – fitness permitting.

Defender Flüggen is currently sidelined with a broken finger, but the 28-year-old hopes to return to action when beach volleyball hits the Danube Island next month. He will do so with a new partner at the net who is among the tallest in the sport at 6ft 9in (210 cm).

Blocker Nils already has a silver medal to his name this season – his first on the international circuit – taking second place in the two-star tournament in Jinyang, China in June with Lorenz Schümann. Lorenz, who played in the World Tour Finals last season with Böckermann while Flüggen was sidelined, is also injured with a knee problem that is set to keep him out until September.

Lars (right) and Markus won six  World Tour medals together during their partnershipLars (right) and Markus won six World Tour medals together during their partnership

For Flüggen, who has suffered three injuries in the last three season, the weeks leading up to the announcement of Böckermann’s retirement had been tough.

But with a ticket to Tokyo on the minds of many beach stars, and a home World Championships next season also on the horizon, a new partnership was too good an opportunity to turn down.

“It’s been a frustrating time and I’d been thinking myself whether or not I should retire too,” admits Lars to beachmajorseries.com. “In the end I felt deep in my heart a voice saying I should give it two more years and focus on Tokyo.

“When I spoke to Nils I had a good feeling and he seems ready to go for it so, with him available, we said we would go for it.

“It’s exciting, it would be dream to play in a home World Championships and hopefully next year we can compete and get into the top 10.”

The new tandem are yet to train together as Lars continues his recovery – he will have his finger x-rayed next week to see if he can resume hand setting – but Flüggen looks back only with positive memories of his partnership with Markus.

“He was the one who asked me to move to Hamburg from Berlin to play beach volleyball on the World Tour,” says Lars. “I was as far away as realizing an Olympic dream as possible, but Markus was the guy that made it happen. We had an awesome time and I’ll be forever grateful.

“Obviously it was tough with the injuries we had, but I felt we never played badly. We always worked hard to make good results.”

The fine results they were too. The pair won three golds and three silver medals together, finishing in the top 10 in 17 of their 37 tournaments on the same side of the sand on the World Tour. Their last and most impressive victory came in Olsztyn in last July, shortly before the World Championships where Lars injured his knee.

Silver it is 🥈. Nach einem umkämpften Finale und mehreren abgewehrten Matchbällen verlieren wir gegen die Amerikaner im dritten Satz mit 16:18. Jetzt freuen wir uns über Silber 😊. . #silver #beachvolleyball #beachvolley #worldtour #china #fivb #roadtotokyo #hsvev #kielersporthilfe #teamsh #careconceptag #sponser #sporthilfe #olympiastützpunkthhsh

200 Likes, 10 Comments - beachteamehlersschuemann (@ehlers_schuemann) on Instagram: "Silver it is 🥈. Nach einem umkämpften Finale und mehreren abgewehrten Matchbällen verlieren wir..."

His new teammate, Ehlers, is a former basketball player that has come to into the sport late. This season, his first on the World Tour, has been a productive one so far.

And Flüggen is looking forward to a successful start and fruitful period of results on the sand with Ehlers.

“He’s developed a lot already in such a short space of time,” says Lars. “Nils is still young, he’s still learning. He’s studying law but he’s putting that on hold for the next two years and I really like him. From the talks we’ve had it’s been very positive and exciting.

“We will be going for Tokyo so we’ll be together for two years minimum, there’s no time to ‘try’ things as Olympic qualification starts in September. We’ve talked a lot and we’re ready.”

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