VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The U.S. Olympic team came into the day with high expectations and surpassed those lofty goals, grabbing six medals -- half of them gold.
The big names justified the hype, and then some: Lindsey, Shani and Shaun won in convincing fashion. And their less-heralded counterparts were just as impressive.
Lindsey Vonn won the women's downhill days after she feared a painful shin injury might knock her out of the games, as the sport's most dominant skier finally got that elusive Olympic medal. And teammate Julia Mancuso, who won gold in the giant slalom in 2006 but had been hindered by injuries ever since, was a surprise silver medalist.
"This is everything I've wanted and hoped for," Vonn said.
Shani Davis and Shaun White became the third and fourth American men to win an event in back-to-back games.
With a sizzling final lap, Davis became the first speedskater to win the men's 1,000 meters twice. Chad Hedrick, who took home three medals at the 2006 games, earned an unlikely bronze in an event he doesn't consider his strength.
Having already clinched victory with a big score in his first run, White thrilled the crowd by capping his second run with his signature trick, the risky 31/2 twists and two flips of the Double McTwist 1260. Scotty Lago took bronze to give the United States multiple medals on the halfpipe for the last three Olympics.
Since getting hurt in practice two weeks ago, Vonn spent more time with Austrian curd cheese smeared on her shin than being on the slopes. Several weather delays bought her time and kept her competition from getting too comfortable on this course.
She kicked out of the gate strong, building a quick lead and building on it. Just when it seemed she might lose control, she regained her form and kept charging toward the finish. A small bump just before the finish cost her a few ticks, but she still wound up winning by 0.56 seconds.
"I fought the whole way down," she said. "It wasn't a perfect run. I attacked, and I made it down."
Maria Riesch of Germany, Vonn's best friend and usual rival of late, finished eighth.
The course was tough, as evidenced by all the crashes. Swedish standout Anja Paerson went down hard, and another competitor had to be airlifted out. Yet another crashed across the finish line and disappeared under a logo of a skier; in trying to get up, she stuck out one ski, making for a bizarre image.
The only times Americans took gold and silver in an Alpine race both happened at the 1984 Sarajevo Games, with brothers Phil and Steve Mahre going 1-2 in the slalom and Debbie Armstrong and Christin Cooper doing so in giant slalom.
Vonn will be favored in two more races. It remains to be seen how much this event took out of her -- or if it's the start of a Phelps-like domination.
"I have what I want, and I'll just keep fighting every day," she said. "It's definitely a huge relief that I finally did it."
Shani Davis didn't come close to a medal in his first two events at these Olympics, but he came through in the 1,000, an event in which he holds the world record. With an impressive final kick, he edged South Korea's Mo Tae-bum, who won the 500 and whose early pace Davis struggled to match.
Davis even shared the podium with Chad Hedrick again after the other American hopeful took the bronze. Davis and Hedrick had a nasty feud at the 2006 Turin Games, but both appeared in good spirits after Wednesday's race. Davis and Hedrick finished second and third in the 1,500 in Turin.
"When you're a world champion or an Olympic champion, you get this little thing on your back called a target," Davis said. "To go out there and win the 1,000 meters twice is truly amazing."
Shaun White's final run was a formality. At times, his entire event seemed like one.
White secured the win on his first run without trying the signature trick. He scored 48.4 points to Finland's Peetu Piiroinen's 45.0.
"I just felt like I didn't come all the way to Vancouver not to pull out the big guns," White said.
The American men and women have taken 12 of the 21 halfpipe medals awarded since the sport came to the Olympics in 1998.
Apolo Anton Ohno easily advanced through the preliminaries of the 1,000, staying on course to surpass Bonnie Blair as the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian.
Ohno, who won his sixth Olympic medal in the 1,500 Saturday, was third most of the way. Then, in the closing laps, he moved up to second before using a smooth inside move to take the lead over China's Liang Wenhao.
From there, Ohno cruised to the finish line well ahead of the others to advance to the semifinals later Wednesday.
Ohno also joined J.R. Celski, Simon Cho and Travis Jayner in qualifying for the 5,000 relay final on Saturday.
Wang Meng of China easily won her second consecutive gold medal in the women's 500 meters. She led all the way after surviving a restart and a false start in the four-woman final.
Wang cruised home well ahead of Canada's Marianne St-Gelais, who took silver. Arianna Fontana of Italy earned the bronze.
With an assist on Finland's opening goal in a 5-1 victory over Belarus, Teemu Selanne matched the record for most career points in the Olympics.
Selanne has 20 goals and 16 assists in five Olympics. Also with 36: Valeri Kharlamov of Russia, Vlastimil Bubnik of the former Czechoslovakia and Harry Watson of Canada.
There were initial concerns Selanne would not be able to play because of surgery last month for a broken jaw. He returned Feb. 1 and played seven games for Anaheim.
Defending champion Sweden shook off a slow start as Mattias Ohlund and Loui Eriksson scored in the second period to help beat Germany 2-0.
The Swedes did not have a shot on net until midway through the scoreless first period in their Vancouver Games opener.
So much for Canada's first real test.
Meghan Agosta had three goals and two assists, Hayley Wickenheiser became the leading goal-scorer in Olympic history, and Canada routed the toughest opponent in its preliminary-round group, beating Sweden 13-1.
Wickenheiser got her 16th Olympic goal among her five points as the Canadians cruised into the semifinals with three victories by a combined 41-2.
Stefanie Marty and Sara Benz scored 43 seconds apart midway through the third period, and Switzerland scored four times in the final 91/2 minutes of a 5-2 victory over Slovakia.
A mile-long sprint came down to a few inches, with Russia's Nikita Kriukov getting the front of his ski across the finish line just ahead of countryman Alexander Panzhinskiy in the men's individual classic cross-country sprint race. A photo finish was needed to determine the winner.
In the women's individual sprint, Norway's Marit Bjoergen pulled away at the end for her first gold medal after winning two silvers at previous Olympics and a bronze in the 10K race Monday.
Pre-race favorite Petra Majdic of Slovenia hurt her ribs in a training crash early Wednesday, but managed to salvage a bronze. She collapsed immediately after crossing the finish line.
Austrian brothers Andreas and Wolfgang Linger won their second straight gold medal in doubles luge.
The Lingers completed their two runs in 1 minute, 22.705 seconds. Andris and Juris Sics of Latvia finished in 1:22.969 and won silver, and Germany's Patric Leitner and Alexander Resch took bronze with a time of 1:23.404.
It was just the second time a doubles team won in consecutive Olympics. Germany's Hans Rinn and Norbert Hahn did it in 1976 and 1980.
The U.S. women fell to 0-2, losing to Germany when skip Debbie McCormick's squad couldn't make up a two-point deficit in the final end.
The men fell to 0-3 with a 7-6 loss to Switzerland.
Want an unobstructed picture of the Olympic cauldron? Not a problem any more.
Organizers of the Vancouver Games opened a viewing ramp Wednesday to bring visitors closer to the Olympic cauldron. A chain-link fence around the flame also was moved closer, with a 6-inch-wide strip cut into it for people taking pictures from ground level.
Olympic organizers initially drew criticism for making the flame inaccessible to the public. It was one of a series of glitches that have marred the opening days of the Winter Games.
DEFENDING THE GAMES
The head of the Vancouver Olympics isn't so fond of talk about these being the Glitch Games.
Despite mechanical failures ranging from the cauldron at the opening ceremony to an ice-resurfacing machine, ticket cancellations, weather woes and more, VANOC CEO John Furlong says the problems are being fixed and the games are inspiring euphoria across the country.
He also acknowledged, "When we make mistakes, we have to fix them," such as opening access to the cauldron.
The gold for U.S. TV viewership on Tuesday night went to "American Idol."
Fox's talent show was watched by 23.6 million viewers, far ahead of the 19.7 million viewers for the Olympics coverage.
Once "Idol" ended, Olympic viewership grew to 20.3 million.
Just NBC's luck, Tuesday was the first day of the Vancouver Olympics that an American did not win a medal.