KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Patrick Riml is from ski-loving Austria. He grew up in that country, competed for its Alpine team, got his start as a coach there.
During the Sochi Olympics, starting with the men's downhill on Sunday, Riml's goal is to help the United States win medals as its Alpine director.
Since taking over the U.S. team in 2011, Riml has brought aboard a sizable Austrian influence, hiring assistants such as men's speed coach Andreas Evers and women's technical coach Roland Pfeifer, who works closely with 18-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin. The Americans also added strength coach Tony Beretzki. And guess where they set up their in-season World Cup base? In Riml's hometown of Soelden, Austria.
Before making all those hires, Riml asked his athletes one simple question: Are you OK with this?
At first, some might have been hesitant.
Not now, though.
"It was kind of an American-pride type of thing: 'We're going to attack the Europeans on our own,'" said Marco Sullivan, whose time was fourth-fastest in Thursday's downhill training run. "But someone took a humbleness pill and decided to hire some Austrians, and it's actually been a really good thing.
"They have a ton of knowledge about the sport. Their team has been hands-down the best team in the world for probably the last two decades. To bring those guys in ... brought a lot of knowledge and confidence."
Especially for youngsters such as Shiffrin, who's being groomed by Pfeifer and whose success in Sochi could hinge on that help.
"Everything starts with a good setup with the coaches. If there's good harmony, communication and camaraderie, that trickles down to the athletes," Riml said.
Other Austrians on the U.S. staff:
— Alex Hoedlmoser is the head coach of the women's team;
— Bernd Brunner is the men's technical coach;
— Pascal Hasler helps out the women's speed squad.
Hoedlmoser offered a simple explanation for the large group from his country that's trying to help the Americans earn medals.
"Bottom line is that in Austria, skiing is sport No. 1. ... There's a lot of experience there. A lot of experience and history," he said. "I actually think it's a good thing to have some foreigners to get a little bit of a different culture to the U.S. But only to a degree. If it were only Austrians, it wouldn't work."