Tot and Max's Russian rout made the judges' jobs easy.
Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin eliminated any chance for controversy and kept their nation's domination of Olympic pairs going Monday night with a balletic free skate reminiscent of the greatest Russian couples. A Russian or Soviet pair has won the gold medal every year since 1964, and this one was as good as any.
Totmianina and Marinin's huge margin, 14.75 points over China's Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao, also erased thoughts of any judging improprieties in the first Olympic pairs event since the 2002 Salt Lake City scandal that led to the new code of points system.
"I felt really great on the ice," Totmianina said. "I can't even explain the emotions because they are very very high."
Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China won their second straight bronze medal.
Zhang and Zhang showed incredible courage after Zhang Dan fell while attempting an unprecedented throw quad salchow and doubled over in pain. They stopped skating and, after a few minutes, she asked to continue. The referee allowed and them to completed their remaining elements, clinching the silver medal.
U.S. champions Rena Inoue and John Baldwin, the only couple to hit a throw triple axel in competition, couldn't duplicate the magic. She fell on their signature move and finished seventh, the best full-field international finish for a U.S. pair since 2002.
Germans dominate early runs
ON THE TRACK: Led by Sylke Otto, Germans held the top three positions at the midway point of the competition. Silke Kraushaar was 0.268 seconds back and Tatjana Huefner was 0.517 seconds off Otto's lead.
But there was a bright spot for the Americans, as 25-year-old Courtney Zablocki of Highlands Ranch, Colo., was in fourth place, just four one-thousandths of a second behind Huefner entering today's medal-deciding runs. "It will take a lot," Zablocki said. "But it's a four-run race, and anything's possible."
Several riders crashed, including American Samantha Retrosi, who had a concussion and short-term memory loss but was not seriously injured after a frightening spill. She smacked the wall near the bottom of the track on her second run and appeared unconscious as she slid underneath her sled. She was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Turin.
QUICK HITS: "Grandma Luge" Anne Abernathy, 52, who broke her wrist Sunday, was ruled out of her sixth Olympics. German women have swept five of the previous 11 Olympic luge competitions, including when Otto led the way by capturing gold in 2002. And a German woman has won gold at 65 consecutive World Cup races, dating to 1997.
UP NEXT: Today, women's runs 3 and 4.
U.S. women lose; men
split with Norway, Finland
ON THE ICE: The American women's team squandered a 4-1 lead in its debut, losing to Norway 11-6.
The U.S. men's team beat Norway 11-5 in its opening match, then lost to Finland 4-3 when Pete Fenson missed with the final rock.
The women's team was frustrated by fast ice that kept its stones from swinging around the sheet. "It's good ice, but fast," American vice skip Jamie Johnson said. "We had control of the game in the beginning. We should have kept the control."
In other women's matches, Sweden beat Canada 7-5, defending champion Britain beat Denmark 3-2 and Switzerland beat Italy 11-4.
The men's match against Norway was tied 3-3 when Fenson curled around a guarding stone and knocked Norway out of the scoring area, giving the United States three points. Norway closed to 6-5 with two in the sixth and was poised for a big score in the seventh when U.S. vice skip Shawn Rojeski executed a perfect three-stone takeout.
In the night match, the men were tied 3-3 with Finland and Fenson had the last rock, but it curled a few inches wide left of its target and failed to knock a U.S. stone into the middle.
In other matches, Britain beat Italy 7-5, Sweden beat New Zealand 6-3, Switzerland beat Finland 7-2, Canada beat Germany 10-5, Britain beat New Zealand 10-5 and Sweden beat Italy 7-5.
QUICK HITS: The U.S. men's victory avenged two losses to the Norwegians in last year's world championships, the second in the tiebreaker round that kept the Americans from having a chance to medal.
UP NEXT FOR U.S.: Today, men vs. New Zealand (8 a.m.) and women vs. Canada (3 a.m.) and Japan (1 p.m.).
Finland, Sweden reach semis
ON THE ICE: Finland and Sweden won their second straight games to finalize the semifinal field, even with four preliminary-round games still to play. As expected, Sweden and Finland join Canada and the United States - all four have 2-0 records - in the semifinals Friday. The teams also meet today to conclude the preliminary round, with Finland taking on the Americans and Sweden facing Canada.
Therese Sjolander had three goals and an assist to lead seven Swedish players with multipoint games in a 11-0 victory over Italy. Karoliina Rantamaki had a goal and an assist in Finland's 4-0 win over Switzerland.
QUICK HITS: The host Italian team has not scored and managed just four shots - none in the third period - in the loss to Sweden. Not to say the Italians are in awe, but they asked for autographs from the Canadian players after their 16-0 loss on Saturday, and goalie Debora Montanari grabbed the game puck and safeguarded it behind her shin pad as a souvenir after the final buzzer Monday.
UP NEXT FOR THE U.S.: Today vs. Finland (2:30 p.m.)
Russians win gold, silver
ON THE ICE: Svetlana Ishmouratova of Russia capitalized on mistakes by all the favorites to win the gold medal in the women's 15-kilometer individual biathlon, and teammate Olga Pyleva took the silver. A strong finish by Germany's Martina Glagow bumped Albina Akhatova to fourth place, denying Russia the sweep.
QUICK HITS: Glagow's teammates were expected to dominate and Andrea Henkel was in line to defend the gold medal she won in 2002 until she missed two targets on her final shoot. World Cup leader Kati Wilhelm and Uschi Disl both lost focus on one of their shoots, missing three times each.
UP NEXT: Today, men 10K sprint.