National champion Kristie Phillips said she wasn't at her best, but it was better than anyone else.
Phillips, 15, considered the successor to Mary Lou Retton, led the United States into the first-day lead in gymnastics compulsories Wednesday at the Pan American Games.
Scoring 9.825 points on the balance beam and 9.75 in the floor exercise, Phillips led the individual standings over teammate Melissa Marlowe, 38.95 to 38.75.
"A few of the performances weren't the best I could do," Phillips said. "I was a little shaky on my balance beam and I took a step on vault."
The United States led Cuba, 192.825 to 189.60. Canada was third with 185.00, followed by Brazil at 182.775.
Team medals will be awarded after today's optional rounds, in which the gymnasts perform their own routines.
The United States led Canada, 192.825 to 185.00. Venezuela was third with 176.90.
Cuba, expected to be the U.S. team's top competition, was scheduled later in the day, along with Puerto Rico, Brazil and Argentina.
Marlowe, of Salt Lake City, scored a 9.85 on uneven bars and Sabrina Mar of Monterey Park, Calif., added a 9.775.
Rhonda Faehn of Coon Rapids, Minn., scored a 9.75 on vault, but on she lost her balance on the beam during a cartwheel and fell to the mat, scoring an 8.925.
"I guess it's just one of those things that happens," said Faehn, 15, noting that Olympic compulsories do not require a cartwheel. "I'll never have to do a cartwheel again."
Hope Spivey of Suffolk, Va., also lost her balance momentarily but did not fall and scored a 9.125.
Faehn and Phillips are teammates at the Houston, Tex., gymnastics school run by Romanian-born Bela Karolyi, who coached Nadia Comaneci and Retton to Olympic gold medals.
Peter Spoerl had three hits and drove in two runs, and Steve Padilla and Vaughn Alvey combined on a four-hitter as the United States advanced to the final in men's softball with a 9-1 victory over Cuba.
The United States will meet Canada tonight in the finals and must win two games for the gold medal. Canada, which lost to the Americans, 7-4, in 11 innings Monday night, goes into the final because it beat the United States, 1-0, in the first medal-round game Tuesday night.
Kevin Robertson and Alan Mouchawar each scored two goals as the U.S. water polo team beat Cuba, 5-3, in the final game of round-robin play.
The U.S. is 3-0, Cuba 2-1.
Barring a loss by either team today or Friday, they would play again for the gold medal Saturday night in a rematch of the finals of the 1979 and 1983 games.
The refereeing "was fair, but we had twice the fouls they did," Cuban Coach Juan Almeneiro said. "It might be more of our own errors that we have to overcome."
Cuba was called for 15 fouls, including one that resulted in a game ejection. The United States had just eight fouls and scored three of its five goals with a one-man advantage.
It was the fifth victory for the Americans in five games this year against Cuba.
Orestes Kindelan hit a grand slam home run, and Jorge Garcia added a solo shot as Cuba bombed Canada, 15-4, in their final round-robin baseball game.
Cuba (6-1) and Canada (4-2) advanced to the medal round along with the United States and Puerto Rico.
The Cubans have hit a record 22 homers, and Kindelan has led the way with seven, a tournament record.
Canada won the gold medal in men's field hockey by downing Argentina, 3-1.
The United States got the bronze medal when it beat Chile, 4-2.
The U.S. women lost to Argentina, 3-2, in the gold-medal game. Canada got that bronze with a 5-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago.
G S B Tot United States 156 107 73 336 Canada 29 55 70 154 Cuba 62 47 42 151 Brazil 10 13 26 49 Argentina 12 10 19 41 Mexico 8 10 17 35 Colombia 3 7 13 23 Venezuela 3 9 9 21 Puerto Rico 2 3 12 17 Jamaica 2 3 7 12 Costa Rica 3 4 3 10 Dom. Republic 0 2 7 9 Ecuador 0 1 5 6 Chile 1 1 3 5 Bahamas 0 2 3 5 Peru 0 2 3 5 Uruguay 2 2 0 4 Panama 0 3 0 3 Nicaragua 0 0 3 3 Suriname 0 0 1 2 Trinidad 0 1 1 2 U.S. Virgin Is. 0 1 1 2 Net. Antilles 0 0 1 1 Bermuda 0 0 1 1 Guatemala 0 0 1 1 Paraguay 0 0 1 1