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Put the gold medal aside for just a moment. The prize money won by Anders Mol and Christian Sorum on Sunday afternoon in Paris will hit their bank accounts soon enough. The 1,200 points they earned for seeding purposes are, when it comes to the Norwegians, mostly irrelevant anyway; they haven’t began a tournament in a qualifier in more than five years, and might not for another decade, at least.

All of that – the medal, the money, the points that will vault Norway back up the World Rankings – are nice. But for Mol and Sorum, and the beach volleyball world at large, the biggest victory lay in the simple fact that they began and finished a tournament healthy, strong, and perhaps playing the best volleyball of their young and already storied careers.

“We’re able to play again, and we’re able to play pretty good,” Mol said, falling back on his usual penchant for understatement. “So that feels just amazing to be back. Now we’re satisfied, not with the medal, but that we’re able to play again. That’s the goal for the rest of the season next year, that we’re able to play again. That’s how we push our level.

“It feels really, really good to be back and to play at a high level again. It’s been a lot of ups and downs this year. We haven’t been able to play. We’ve had to pull out of three tournaments. Now it feels really amazing to be back, really have a good level, and we’re stoked to push our level again. That’s what we do when we play these tournaments, we get better.”

At this point, it’s fair to wonder: How much better can Norway actually get? They won their first tournament in 2018, which kicked off a string of three gold medals in a row, on beach volleyball’s grandest stages: Gstaad, Vienna, Hamburg. They amassed more prize money in a single month -- $230,000 – than anyone in the history of the game. They’ve since won 15 more events, including an Olympic gold medal in 2021 and a World Championship in 2022. They are, no matter what the rankings or seeding might suggest, unanimously considered the best team in the world, and are rapidly strengthening their case as the best in the sport’s relatively young history.

“We know it’s so hard to win tournaments because the level has never been higher, so we know to win tournaments, we have to play so many good matches,” Sorum said. “It feels good to be back and winning good matches against good teams. It happened this week and it’s a good feeling.”

It would be easy for some to get lost amid all that grandeur. Yet Mol and Sorum, just 25 and 26 years old, respectively, have somehow remained grounded, to the point that, in the aftermath of their 21-19, 21-18 victory over Alex Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen in the finals of the Paris Elite16, they spoke of the beauty of simply being able to practice again.

“It was for sure a special thing because it has been a struggle with injuries,” Sorum said. “To be able to practice really well last week was great and to play good volleyball, it was amazing to finish out that good feeling with a win.”

Technically, the Norwegians have competed in seven events this season, and Paris marked their third victory. But when you factor in three tournaments in which they had to pull out – two to illness, one to injury – Norway has only finished four on their feet. A 75 percent win rate, even for the Beach Volley Vikings, is unprecedented, as the Beach Pro Tour continues getting deeper and deeper with gold medal caliber talent, most notably the Dutch men they played in the finals.

If there has been an antidote to Norway, Brouwer and Meeuwsen have been it. In 19 career meetings – discounting a forfeit at the Hamburg Elite16 – Brouwer and Meeuwsen still hold the edge, winning 10, the only team on the planet who can claim a winning record over Mol and Sorum.

“It’s the team we have struggled the most against, it’s our biggest rival on the tour, and we’re just looking forward to many more battles with them,” Mol said. “They’ve been playing really good this year, it might be the best season they’ve had ever, so to beat them in this season is really fantastic.”

The silver medal will actually vault Brouwer and Meeuwsen to the top spot in the world rankings, supplanting Brazil’s George Wanderley and Andre Loyola. Mol and Sorum will be just 280 points behind. A fitting top to the beach volleyball world.

“Just super happy and it’s amazing,” Sorum said. “To be in a final and to win it in this stadium in Roland Garros, it was amazing.”