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Men’s Olympic hockey playoff matchups set

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The group stage is over and the seeding for the playoffs has been determined. Every team still has a shot at the gold medal but, from this point onward, it’s win or go home.

Seeds five through 12 will play in the qualification round while one through four get byes to the quarterfinals. The bracket is now locked and will not be adjusted per round to assure that the highest seed team always plays the worst squad. For example, if the 12th seed Norwegian team defeats Russia, the Norwegians will still face the fourth seeded Finnish squad, not the first seeded Swedes.

No. 8 Slovenia vs. No. 9 Austria

Just getting to this point is a victory for both teams, as Slovenia won its first-ever Olympic game in the group phase (over Slovakia) while Austria won at the Winter Games for the first time in 12 years (against Norway). This game won’t have much in the way of star power as Slovenia has just one NHLer — Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar — while the Austrians have three in Thomas VanekMichael Grabner and Michael Raffl.

Winner plays Sweden

No. 5 Russia vs. No. 12 Norway

The Russians have been underwhelming so far. They lost in a shootout to the United States and barely beat Slovakia, the latter result costing them a bye to the quarterfinals (but that might not be such a bad thing.) If nothing else, Russia can take comfort in the fact that Canada followed a similar path in the 2010 round robin and still ended up winning the tournament. As for the Norwegians, they’ve fallen on hard times since hanging tough with Canada in the tournament opener and were outscored 9-2 in losses to Finland and Austria.

Winner plays Finland

No. 6 Switzerland vs. No. 11 Lativa

A rematch from the opening game of the group stage, in which Simon Moser scored with eight seconds remaining to give Switzerland a 1-0 win. The Swiss have been air-tight defensively — allowing just one goal all tournament — but the Latvians have been competitive in every game thus far and, four years ago in Vancouver, nearly pulled a huge opening-round playoff upset by taking the Czechs to OT before losing.

Winner plays Canada

No. 7 Czech Republic vs. No. 10 Slovakia

Group mates at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, the Czechs beat the Slovaks 3-1 on goals from their big guns: Patrik EliasTomas Plekanec and Jaromir Jagr. Neither team has been very impressive in Sochi, though the Slovakians gained a measure of confidence by taking Russia to a shootout in their final group game. The Czechs have been hampered by illness and questionable coaching decisions, but are getting good tournaments from Plekanec (two assists in three games) and Jagr (two goals in three games).

Winner plays U.S.

Claressa Shields congratulated by famous boxing actor (video)

Claressa Shields
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Claressa Shields may just be the most dominant female athlete on the planet. The Flint, Mich., native is now a two-time Olympic boxing champion with a 77-1 record and a four-year unbeaten streak.

Actor Mark Wahlberg, who played boxer Micky Ward in the 2010 film “The Fighter,” took notice.

He taped a video that Shields watched before a celebration in her hometown Thursday, according to the Flint Journal.

“You are the true definition of a champion,” Wahlberg said. “You continue to inspire so many people, not only in Flint, but all over the world. I’m so proud of you. Your performance was amazing. God bless you. I look forward to seeing you, and I look forward to doing lots of things with you.”

Now Shields must decide whether to turn professional, which would end her Olympic career.

“Professional women’s boxing is not nowhere near on the same attention level as the Olympics are,” the 21-year-old Shields said, according to the Flint Journal. “I get way more attention than any female boxer who is professional right now with me being an amateur.

“So the goal is to go professional but still have that same attention and same mainstream. Hopefully, if they have the rule changed that the women professionals can come back and fight the Olympics, I would go professional to fight on TV and make a bunch of money but then come back and defend my two gold medals in 2020.”

MORE: Shields becomes first U.S. fighter to win back-to-back golds

Russian Olympic medalists gifts include racehorse

Abdulrashid Sadulaev
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MOSCOW (AP) — Luxury cars, apartments, even a racehorse — being an Olympic medalist in Russia can come with great material rewards but also controversy.

Under President Vladimir Putin, it’s become a tradition for Russia’s Olympic heroes to be showered with large cash sums and sometimes unwanted gifts.

On Friday, less than 24 hours after dozens of medalists were presented with BMW cars at the Kremlin by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, an advertisement appeared online offering one of them for sale, with photographs showing the car still covered in stickers celebrating Russia’s medal haul in Rio.

The advertisement offering the BMW X6 for 4.67 million rubles ($72,000) was anonymous and quickly withdrawn. It couldn’t be independently verified by The Associated Press, though Russian agency R-Sport claimed the seller was a Russian medalist who thought the car was too big and unwieldy.

Figure skater Maxim Trankov, who received a Mercedes-Benz SUV for his gold medal in 2014, said few Olympians could afford to own such cars.

“Has no one thought that these gift cars are not only liable for the tax on luxury items, but also aren’t cheap to run and earnings can’t cover it?” he wrote on Twitter. “I’d sell mine too if it came to it … Or does everyone think all sports pay as well as soccer, hockey or tennis?”

Gymnast Seda Tutkhalyan said she wouldn’t be able to drive her new BMW because at 17 years of age she was too young to have a license.

While online commenters mostly supported an athlete’s right to sell expensive Olympic gifts, many were critical of the government for a display of conspicuous consumption at the Kremlin at a time when Russia’s pension and healthcare systems are under financial strain.

It’s not fully clear how much the prizes have cost the Russian government.

State TV channel Rossiya 24 reported that the fleet of BMWs was provided by the Olympians’ Support Fund, which is backed by a group of Russia’s richest men, but that the accompanying cash prizes of tens of thousands of dollars per medalist came in part from the federal budget.

More awards are on offer from regional governments, many of which made public displays of generosity despite financial troubles of their own.

The Caucasus region of North Ossetia last month promised a free apartment for any medalists from the area, though it isn’t clear if this has happened yet.

In another grand gesture, the head of the restive Dagestan region gave Olympic wrestling champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev 6 million rubles ($93,000) in cash and a racehorse at a lavish welcoming ceremony featured on local TV.

Still, all may not be well for Sadulaev, who’s nicknamed the “Russian Tank” for his habit of crushing opponents on the wrestling mat. He’s already facing an allegation from a Moscow radio presenter of reckless driving in his eye-catching BMW.

MORE: Putin slams Russia’s Paralympic ban