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Standing above the crowd

Niklas Rudolf of Germany (208 cm, 6'10"), the tallest player in the Beach Volleyball competition, walks on the treadmill with the Olympic torch for the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games.

Nanjing, China, August 19, 2014 - Eric Stadie has learned his lesson. Whenever he walks around the Youth Olympic Village with his teammate, Niklas Rudolf, he allows himself extra time to avoid being late.

Like a rock star, Rudolf cannot leave his room without attracting significant attention. At 208 cm (6-foot-10), he towers over most Nanjing citizens. Fascinated by his height, the Chinese swarm around the “Gentle German Giant,” politely asking him to pose for photographs.  

 “I’ve taken so many photos I’ve lost count,” Rudolf said.

With the constant interruptions, it almost seems like Rudolf moves faster on the sand than he does on the cement sidewalks of the Youth Olympic Village.

Rudolf’s height is not the only reason he attracts attention. With shaggy blond hair, he also bears a striking resemblance to professional basketball star, and fellow German, Dirk Nowitzki.

“Everyone thinks he looks like Dirk,” Stadie said, “especially the girls.”

Rudolf is the tournament’s tallest beach volleyball player, and one of the tallest athletes at the Youth Olympics. He is just a little bit taller than Russia’s Oleg Stoyanovskiy, who is 206 cm (6-foot-9). 

“With his hair, [Rudolf] is taller,” France’s Arnaud Louiseau joked. 

When opponents serve Rudolf, he is able to use his height to unleash powerful spikes.

“I always aim right over the block,” Rudolf said. “It gives me an advantage.”

But opponents do not serve Rudolf very often.

“We never serve to him,” Louiseau said. “Opponents who do quickly learn not to.” 

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