VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Gold was the only option for both Canada's women's hockey team and South Korean figure skater Kim Yu-na. For the U.S. Nordic combined squad, any medal in any color would do.
All of them were quite pleased with the way things turned out Thursday.
The Canadian women beat the United States 2-0 for their third straight Olympic title, this one even sweeter because it was on home ice -- and in front of a who's who list of fans that included Wayne Gretzky, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, actor Michael J. Fox and several members of the men's hockey team, including captain Scott Niedermayer.
"It's so special," said women's captain Hayley Wickenheiser, a four-time Olympian with three gold medals. "You grow up in Canada, you know the expectations."
Expectations were just as high for Kim, the reigning world champion known as the "Queen." She responded with one of the greatest performances figure skating has ever seen, drawing a score that shattered her own world record and even caused her to gasp when it was posted. This also was South Korea's first medal at the Winter Olympics in a sport other than speedskating.
Up in the mountains, Billy Demong and Johnny Spillane finished 1-2 in a Nordic combined race, a surprising medal haul in a sport that's been part of the Winter Olympics since 1924 but never had an American medalist until these games.
Demong's victory is the first gold and his second of these games. Spillane became the first medalist on Sunday, and now he has three, all silver.
"I think it has been building over the past five to 10 years," Demong said. "These Olympics are the combination of years of hard work and hard breaks."
Add silvers by the hockey women and Jeret "Speedy" Peterson in men's aerials, and the U.S. medal count is up to eight golds and 32 overall. The Americans are closing in on their record hauls of 10 gold of 34 total, both set at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
Germany had a 1-2 finish in giant slalom to reach eight golds and 26 overall medals.
Norway's Marit Bjoergen became the top medal-winner thus far, becoming the first with three golds and with four overall medals by leading the winning team in the women's cross-country relay.
Also, Canada's Joannie Rochette won bronze in the figure skating, just four days after her mom died of a heart attack while in Vancouver for this event.
In a showdown between the sport's only powers, speedy 18-year-old Marie-Philip Poulin scored twice in the first period and goaltender Shannon Szabados made it hold up. Canada hasn't lost an Olympic hockey game since dropping the gold-medal game at the 1998 Nagano Games.
The gold was No. 8 at these games for Canada, its most ever at a Winter Games and at least some validation for its Own the Podium program. The hockey team celebrated by drinking beer and champagne and smoking cigars on the ice, much to the chagrin of the IOC.
The Americans beat everyone else 40-2, but couldn't get a single goal on 28 shots.
Several Americans were in tears, including four-time Olympians Angela Ruggiero and Jenny Potter, who was joined on the ice by her two children during the medal presentation. The Canadian crowd raised a chant of "U-S-A!" while the players got their bouquets.
"When you give your whole life to something and you come up short, as a team, it's just awful," Ruggiero said, choking back tears. "It's a little different than playing on the men's side. You really give your life to it. You make lots of sacrifices to win the gold medal."
Earlier, Finland beat Sweden 3-2 in overtime for the bronze, Finland's first medal since taking bronze when women's hockey debuted at the 1998 Winter Olympics. Finland President Tarja Halonen was among those celebrating.
Considering the dominance of Canada and the drop in quality after the United States, there's been speculation about cutting women's hockey from the Olympics. Unlikely, says IOC president Jacques Rogge.
"Women's hockey is a growing sport," he said. "There is no doubt that in the future women's hockey will be a hit."
This race involved ski jumping on the large hill, then a 10-kilometer race. Weather was another obstacle.
A driving, wet snow and tail wind late in the ski jumping portion ruined the distances for many of the top competitors, forcing them to start way back in the cross-country race. Demong and Spillane were among those to win the weather "lottery," as World Cup leader Jason Lamy Chappuis of France called it.
The Americans weren't the only lucky ones, though. And Demong did rise from sixth to first, outlasting Spillane and Bernhard Gruber of Austria after they distanced themselves from everyone else. So don't put too much of an asterisk on this.
The Americans failed to earn a medal for only the second time since 1952. The other time was 1964, three years after a plane crash wiped out the entire U.S. team on its way to the world championships.
Mirai Nagasu was fourth while U.S. champion Rachael Flatt dropped to seventh.
Peterson pulled out his one-of-a-kind "Hurricane" jump and landed the highest score of the 24 jumps, but his two-jump total came up just shy of Alexei Grishin of Belarus.
Peterson's move wraps five twists into three somersaults as he vaults off the ramp and 50 feet in the air. Then, he stuck the landing.
Teammate Ryan St. Onge was fourth.
Julia Mancuso was third fastest in Thursday's second run of the giant slalom, which wasn't enough to overcome a frustrating performance in the first run a day earlier. Her Vancouver Olympics ends with a pair of silver medals.
Viktoria Rebensburg won the race, giving Germany a winner in it for the first time since 1956. She was highly unlikely to be the drought-buster as she'd never won a major event.
"Unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable," she said.
Also, Lindsey Vonn plans to ski the slalom Friday with a hard, plastic brace protecting her right pinkie. She broke it during a tumble in the giant slalom Wednesday that left her "a ball of hurt right now," according to her husband, Thomas.
American bobsledder Bill Schuffenhauer was detained and released by Canadian police after an argument with his fiancee, a person with direct knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press.
Schuffenhauer, a silver medalist in 2002, resumed Olympic training Thursday and is expected to compete in Friday's four-man bobsled.
Police released him after finding no evidence of a crime, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
"I don't foresee any way that he would not race, regardless of how things progress," said Darrin Steele, chief executive of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.
Bjoergen joined the growing trend of skiers pausing on the way to the finish to grab a flag. Like the others who did it, she was well ahead.
Norway won its first women's relay gold since 1984, having settled for silver five times.
Bjoergen also won the individual sprint and 15K pursuit, and took bronze in the 10K freestyle.
The Americans were 12th.
In the ongoing dispute over whether the NHL will let its players participate in the 2014 Sochi Games, the head of Russia's pro hockey league says it would be a serious mistake for the NHL to stand in their way.
Alex Medvedev said he met three times in Vancouver with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Bettman is concerned about shutting down the NHL season during the Olympics. He also has doubts about an Olympics in which the hockey would be played at a time when many North American fans would be asleep.
VANCOUVER: LUGER'S LEGACY
IOC president Jacques Rogge says the death of a Georgian luger will forever be associated with the Vancouver Games, just as the slaying of Israeli athletes remains a legacy of the Munich Olympics.
Rogge said the IOC accepted a "moral responsibility" for the tragedy but not legal responsibility.
"There will always be risk in sport, but it has to be reasonable and the athletes take a lot of risk themselves," he said.
He also expects Russian organizers to make sure the sliding track is safe for the 2014 Sochi Games.
"The IOC has been very clear in saying to the Russians: Please deliver us a track that will not be hazardous," Rogge said.
The Norwegian men -- and their popular, gaudy, diamond-print trousers -- will meet Canada in the gold-medal final after beating Switzerland. Canada is attempting to become the first Olympic curling team to go unbeaten at the games since the sport returned as a medal event in 1998. It earned its own spot in the final by beating Sweden.
In the women's final, it'll be Sweden vs. Canada.
The defending gold medalists from Sweden KO'd the reigning world champion Chinese in one semifinal, and the hosts took out Switzerland on a late shot.