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Bikini-clad former Gopher is bound for Beijing

Bikini-clad former Gopher is bound for Beijing

Beach volleyballer Nicole Branagh punched her ticket to the Olympics by making the finals of a key international tournament in Moscow over the weekend.

Branagh, a California native who graduated from the U of M in 2000, paired with Elaine Youngs to make their strong run at the Grand Slam Gold Tournament, where they advanced to the finals before falling to Chen Xue and Xi Zhang. They're the second of two American women's teams to qualify for the games. The top-ranked duo of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh secured the first spot.

According to Big Ten Network, Branagh's just the second U of M volleyballer to qualify for the Olympics. The first was Branagh's former teammate Nicole Berg, who made the national women's team in 2004.

Branagh and her partner are currently the sixth-ranked women's beach volleyball duo in the world.

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