The women's keirin provided thrills in the final and during qualifying, some spills.
In the final, Ligtlee took to the front on the last lap and managed to hold her advantage right over the line.
Meares sat on world champion Katrina Vogels' wheel until she tussled her way to the front behind Ligtlee. Then James in a huge burst of speed jumped around the German Vogels on the final straight and closed in on Meares.
Meares finished an agonising half wheel behind James but the experienced Australian said she'd still achieved her Rio goals.
"I had two goals for these games. Finish better than I did in London in the keirin, and win a medal. They were my goals. I've got a free swing now in the sprint," Meares told Channel 7's Katherine Bates after the race.
"I knew the pace was going to be on from the get go so I had to be smart and patient with my timing."
Welsh sprinter James' silver meant all the more after overcoming several injuries, a cervical cancer scare and concussions suffered by her boyfriend Welsh rugby player George North.
"I came in with good form and I love the keirin and I love racing. Once I got through the first round I just wanted to enjoy the day. I was at the back and was just thinking 'when do I go, when do I go?'
"It has been a tough two years and I couldn't have done it without everyone's help.
As it happened
"It was rough and tumble all through the rounds, so many crashes. I had my elbows out which my coach will give me one for," Meares said.
"You can't go out there for a cup of tea and biscuits."
In the semi finals, Meares herself made contact with Hong Kong sprint star Wai Sze Lee who then crashed out on the final lap. Fortunately for the Australian, the officials ruled there was no interference and her semi final win was upheld.
Another crash produced an iconic Olympic and track cycling moment. Spanish rider Tania Barbero Calvo and New Zealand's Olivia Podmore crashed and eventually caused the crash of French cyclist Virginie Cuff, seen here in the top of the shot with Dutch rider Laurine van Riessend.
But Laurine van Riessend (Ned) managed to come up with this save.
Yes, she rode up the barrier, then back down and managed to finish.
Other Australians in action from the sprint team
In the men's sprints, Matthew Glaetzer easily conquered Max Levy then German Joachim Eilers. But then he faced Callum Skinner (GBR) in the semi finals. In heat 1, Skinner started his sprint from the front and held the lead to the line by half a length. In the second heat, Skinner came over the top and around Glaetzer to catch him by another half length on the line. Glaetzer will ride off for bronze against Russia's Denis Dmitriev tomorrow.
In the same event, Olympic debutant Pat Constable was mismatched against a furiously in form Jason Kenny (GBR) going down 2-0 in the quarter finals.
Stephanie Morton finished fifth in the first round of the keirin and failed to progress further.