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Team USA Owning the Olympic Podium

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - So far, so gold.

The halfway pole has come at the Winter Olympics, and the "Star Spangled Banner" is No. 1 on the medal ceremony hit parade.

Twenty medals overall through Friday. More than the Germans. More - no giggling, please - than the Own-the-Podium Canadians. Way more than the Russians.

So what gives? We have here the first-week list of Vancouver.

- Two reasons to take due notice of the burgeoning American medal count.

1. Know the last Winter Olympics the United States ended up with the most medals? Try 1932.

2. In 1988, Canada hosted the Olympics in Calgary. The Yank medal total was six.

- Three teams needing a strong second week.

1. The Canadians. There's a flip side to home court-advantage. Pressure. Especially with all the talk of Own the Podium, which makes a fine slogan. Makes a swell punch line, too, if you come up lacking.

"They can take that home," U.S. snowboarder Nate Holland said before everything started. "We'll just rent it for the month."

The Canadians started showing some muscle in recent days, but they're still fourth so far in medals, down 20-8 to the USA through Friday.

Since this is a bilingual country, what's French for, "If you talk the talk?"

"I don't see any point in targeting the middle," Chris Rudge, CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee, was saying. "We have always been a fourth to be reckoned with."

Maple leaf humor, eh?

2. The Russians. Through Friday, they had one gold, same as the Netherlands, and were tied for 10th in overall medals.

3. The Austrians. They're supposed to own the Alpine events lock, stock and yodel. They've won two medals. Meanwhile, the Americans, from a land where millions believe the super G to be a nutritional supplement, have seven.

- Five reasons the American medal count is racing along like Secretariat.

1. The stars have delivered. Lindsey Vonn, Shani Davis, Shaun White.

2. Luck. Alpine medals are decided by margins the width of napkins. Half the short track speed skating population of Korea seemed to fall down in front of Apolo Ohno on the last turn of his first event.

3. The alpine team. It's been a medal machine.

4. Surprises and breakthroughs. Evan Lysacek in men's figure skating, Julia Mancuso in skiing, a Nordic combined medal.

5. No big flops. Yet.

- Four reasons why, in Moscow, they might have to turn the old USSR team pictures to the wall.

1. They hadn't lost the gold medal in pairs skating since 1964. They didn't even medal this year.

2. The men's hockey team was beaten by Slovakia. "Right now, maybe we think we are too good," goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said. "I think we have to get our heads on a swivel."

3. Evgeni Plushenko was upset by Lysacek, then groused about the result. "I've admired him for years," Lysacek said, "but I'm disappointed that someone who was a role model for me would take a hit at me at the greatest moment of my life."

4. Final score from women's hockey: United States 13, Russia 0. The Russians didn't even play their No. 1 goalie, possibly wanting to prevent puck-shock. "She is resting today," backup Mariya Onolbaeva said.

On the second game of the tournament?

- Three events in the second week not to be missed.

1. USA vs. Canada Sunday in men's hockey. The Canadians lose that, panic is in the air.

2. USA vs. Canada women for the gold medal in women's hockey Thursday, unless something unfathomable happens to either in the semis. They have outscored the opposition so far by a combined score of 69-3.

3. Women's figure skating. A surprise by one of the American teenage underdogs would be icing on what is becoming a pretty impressive cake.

- One symbol that the Olympics for the U.S. have not all been glorious, no matter what the medal count says.

Katie Uhlaender's father, Ted, was a former major leaguer, and she had hoped he would see her march in the opening ceremony and compete in the Olympics in skeleton.

Turned out, the opening ceremony was the first anniversary of his death. Katie wears his National League championship ring as a necklace, and wanted to medal in his memory, even though she was coming off a shattered kneecap in 2009.

She finished 11th Friday night.

"I'm probably going to break down after this, I'm not going to lie," she said. "You go through the first year and everything's a new experience without your father.

"He was always there for me, so going through this without him was tough. I did the best I could. I feel like I represented my country the way I should have."

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