Russia crushes U.S. in hockey Worlds bronze-medal game

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Russia easily beat the U.S. in a World Championship medal-round meeting for the second straight year, taking bronze 7-2 in Moscow on Sunday.

Reigning Olympic and World champion Canada and Finland play for gold later Sunday in Moscow (1 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Live Extra).

The Russians, led by Alex Ovechkin, were up 4-0 after 33 minutes Sunday and earned their third straight World medal after gold in 2014 (following their Sochi Olympic quarterfinal exit) and silver in 2015.

The U.S. just missed matching its bronze-medal finishes from 2013 and 2015. Still, the Americans are on their most consistent quadrennial run at Worlds in 50 years, since their last World title in 1960.

The U.S. squeaked into the quarterfinals after group-play losses to Canada, Finland, Germany and Slovakia. It then ousted the Czech Republic 2-1 in a quarterfinal shootout Thursday and led Canada 3-2 before falling 4-3 in the semifinals Saturday.

The U.S. roster at Worlds included zero Olympians and, though it had many NHL players, two had made an NHL All-Star team (Nick Foligno of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings). The U.S.’ average age was 23, making it the youngest team in the tournament.

Sunday’s bronze-medal game was also notable given the U.S. Department of Justice has reportedly investigated the ongoing Russian Olympic sports doping scandal that implicates the Russian Olympic women’s hockey team.

The May 2017 Worlds are co-hosted by France and Germany.

At the 2018 Olympics, the U.S. and Russia are guaranteed to play each other as they are in the same group, along with Slovakia and a qualifier to be determined in September.

MORE: 2018 Olympic hockey groups announced

Justin Morneau nixes Olympic baseball qualifying return

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Justin Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP with the Minnesota Twins, was taken off Canada’s Olympic baseball qualifying roster before he would have played his first competitive game in more than two years.

Morneau, 38, experienced an unspecified setback in training and was replaced on Canada’s roster for next month’s Premier12. The global tournament marks the first opportunity for many world baseball powers to qualify for the sport’s return to the Olympics.

Morneau never played in the Olympics before baseball was cut from the Games after 2008; active MLB players have never competed in the Games. But he was on Canada’s roster at all four World Baseball Classics from 2006 through 2017.

At November’s Premier12, the top nation from North and South America will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Japan and Israel are already qualified. Those that do not qualify will get another chance next year.

Morneau could become the second Major League Baseball MVP to play Olympic baseball as a medal sport. The other was Jason Giambi, who made the U.S. team in 1992, the same summer he was drafted in the second round by the Oakland Athletics.

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MORE: Joe Girardi replaced as U.S. baseball manager by World Series champion

Kolohe Andino is first U.S. Olympic surfing qualifier; Kelly Slater faces last chance

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Kolohe Andino is the first American to qualify for surfing’s Olympic debut, which leaves one spot left for 47-year-old Kelly Slater to chase at the final contest of the season.

Andino, a 25-year-old Californian whose first name means “rascal” in Hawaiian, clinched his place in Tokyo on Friday at the penultimate stop on the World Surf League Championship Tour in Portugal. He is ranked fifth in the world, trailing a trio of Brazilians.

One more American man will join Andino on the Olympic team. It will be one of Slater, the 11-time world champion, John John Florence, the 2016 and 2017 World champion, and rising 22-year-old Hawaiian Seth Moniz.

Slater was handed a golden opportunity to qualify when Florence announced in early July that he tore an ACL for the second time in 13 months. Florence had won two of the first five events this season.

Slater has been chasing the sidelined Florence in the standings ever since. But it has not been easy.

Slater hasn’t made the quarterfinals in any of his last seven contests going into December’s finale — the prestigious Billabong Pipeline Masters on the North Shore of Oahu.

“Ninth place, to me, used to be a pretty awful result. I’m used to at least a quarterfinal on for most of my career,” he said in July, noting a back injury. “I’m not horrified by my results, but I’m also not surprised. Maybe other people are because everyone focuses on my age and that kind of thing. It’s not like I’m going to all of a sudden forget how to do this thing, you know?”

Slater, who won the Pipe Masters seven times between 1992 and 2013, must reach the quarterfinals at this year’s event to have any chance of passing Florence to qualify for the Olympics.

Complicating matters: Florence said in August it was his “goal to get better for Pipeline in case I have to come back and compete and gain points,” according to ESPN.com. If Florence does return for the December contest, and makes the quarterfinals, Slater could only pass him with a victory.

Moniz goes into the finale ranked one spot behind Slater, meaning he, too, can grab that second and final Olympic spot with a win or a runner-up.

Slater, who turns 48 on Feb. 11, would be the oldest U.S. Summer Olympic rookie competitor in a sport other than equestrian, sailing or shooting (or art competitions!) in the last 100 years, supplanting Martina Navratilova, according to the OlyMADMen.

MORE: Top U.S. surfer has links to Egg McMuffin, Guinness World Record holder

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