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SOELDEN, Austria - If skiings opening weekend was any indication, the United States is in for quite an Olympic season. Ted Ligety, Mikaela Shiffrin, Bode Miller and Tim Jitloff underlined the squads enormous potential on the Rettenbach glacier in Austria. "Im really happy with how things are going," U.S. Alpine director Patrick Riml said. "The coaches and staff did an unbelievable job getting the athletes ready." And with Lindsey Vonn planning to return in a month from right knee surgery and Julia Mancuso always a threat on a big stage, the Americans could surpass their eight medals from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics at the Sochi Games, which run Feb. 7-23. "Everything is going on track," Riml said. "Im feeling confident with our whole setup." Ligety won the opening giant slalom for the third consecutive year. The 18-year-old Shiffrin matched her career-best World Cup result in the discipline with a sixth-place finish. Miller marked his return from 20 months off by placing 19th after starting outside the top 30. Jitloff was 20th with one big error that probably cost him about 10 positions. Perhaps the only negative note was Mancuso finishing 27th. But Mancuso always seems to save her best for major championships, as evidenced by her gold medal in giant slalom at the 2006 Turin Games and two silvers in Vancouver. "Julia is always showing she does well at the big events," former U.S. mens head coach Phil McNichol said. "Lindsey is Lindsey. Ted is coming off three (gold) medals at the world championships. Bodes back in the mix. Mikaela is going to be a force to be reckoned with. So its going to be a very interesting Olympic cycle." Ligety dominated giant slalom last season, winning six of eight races on the World Cup plus the world championship race in Schladming, Austria, where he was also a surprise winner in super-G and super-combined. "Last year we had an awesome prep here but this year was less so, so I wasnt 100 per cent confident of how I was skiing," Ligety said. "But then we had good training here in Soelden and the last couple of weeks I started to feel a little better. Its nice to have some confirmation." Ligety is enjoying having his childhood friend and former junior world downhill champion Adam Cole on the coaching staff this season. "We grew up together," Ligety said. "Hes also young and athletic so he can do dry-land with us and we can go play other sports and push each other." Shiffrin dominated in slalom last season with four wins plus the world title and now looks like a two-event threat with her giant slalom vastly improved. After the Olympics, Shiffrin could expand into the speed events. Shiffrin is also maturing off the hill. Her mother, who has accompanied her in Europe for the past two seasons, said this is probably the last season shell be there. "I may not have to stay here as she keeps getting more and more comfortable," Eileen Shiffrin said. Shiffrin has improved so much in GS that she was beating male teammates in training the past couple of weeks. Which guys was she beating? Thats still a secret. "Shiffrin was skiing unbelievably fast," mens head coach Sasha Rearick said. "Im not going to tell you." As for the 36-year-old Miller — yes, hes twice Shiffrins age — his new slimmer frame appears to be paying off. The two-time overall World Cup winner lost nearly 30 pounds during his season off to recover from left knee surgery. Miller skied to 13th place with the No. 32 bib in the opening run and was able to hang on in the second leg. "I wasnt tired at all," Miller said. "I think my fitness is higher now for a World Cup than its ever been. Im snappy and springy and I can go as long as the courses are. ... Theres obviously some lack of inertia, some weight, but I dont think thats going to be an issue." If Miller already has his form back in giant slalom, he could really excel in the speed events of downhill and super-G, where hes had nearly all of his wins in recent years. "GS was the one event where we hadnt been able to put the most volume in because it was causing some more knee irritation," Rearick said. "So if hes been able to do what hes done this week, its beyond my expectations." Millers fitness should also get a boost from the speed teams newly hired conditioning coach, Tony Beretzki, an Austrian who once worked with Hermann Maier and Stephan Eberharter and spent the last four years with the Spartak Moscow soccer team. With Miller out last season, downhillers Marco Sullivan, Steven Nyman and Travis Ganong each had solid starts, but their conditioning dropped off around January. "He has brought a great, great program and is doing an awesome job," Rearick said. The womens speed team, meanwhile, is coming off a record-breaking season that included podium finishes not just for Vonn and Mancuso, but also for Stacey Cook, Alice McKennis, Leanne Smith and Laurenne Ross. The bar of expectations has been raised for Cook & Co. this season. "You definitely want to back up those results," womens head coach Alex Hoedlmoser said. "You want to be contenders with all of those girls on a regular basis." The speed teams dont race until events in Lake Louise, Alberta, and Beaver Creek, Colo., on Thanksgiving weekend. Next up are slaloms in Levi, Finland, Nov. 16-17. ___ Follow Andrew Dampf at http://twitter.com/asdampf Custom Detroit Lions Jerseys . - Florida State has suspended Jameis Winston for the entire game against Clemson on Saturday, extending its initial punishment of one half after the quarterback made offensive and vulgar comments about female anatomy earlier this week. 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In other first-round matches, Lucie Safarova beat 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone 6-4, 6-4 and American Bethanie Mattek-Sands had a 6-4, 6-3 win over Canadas Eugenie Bouchard.OAKLAND, Calif. - Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr approached Andre Iguodala during the preseason to discuss a somewhat radical idea he wanted to try out.Kerr asked Iguodala how he felt about being the teams top reserve and Harrison Barnes starting ahead of him at small forward. Iguodala, who had started all 807 games he played in his first 10 seasons in the NBA, wasnt thrilled about the idea but agreed to go along with the experiment.Kerr thanked Iguodala for accepting the role and named him a team captain alongside Stephen Curry this season.Its kind of a sacrifice. Sometimes you want to be selfish, you want to get your shots. You want to make sure you get your minutes, Iguodala said. Honestly, were all human. I go through times where I want to do this, I want to do that. But being a captain, I think about that and seeing the bigger picture — what are we trying to do? Where are we trying to get to?The situation is a perfect example of what Kerr expects out of the Warriors: unselfish basketball without worrying about individual accomplishments.Kerr has gotten players to embrace that philosophy, rolling out a new offence and a new rotation that are working wonders for the Warriors so far. Golden State is 3-0 for the first time in 20 years, and Kerr is the franchises first coach to begin his career with three straight wins since Neil Johnston did it to start the 1959-60 season.Kerr said he has been proud of the way his players have accepted his way of doing things, which couldve been complicated after the team fired popular predecessor Mark Jackson following a 51-win season and back-to-back playoff berths. Hes also quick to note that the season is just a week old and his rotation is far from flawless.Were trying to find the right group together, Kerr said about the second unit. I feel like were sort of treading water right now, but eventually I think well be able to make a surge with that group.What has pleased Kerr most is that the Warriors are still winning while adjusting.Power forward David Lee has missed all three games because of a strained left hamstring.ddddddddddddHe expects to return when the Warriors host the Clippers on Wednesday night in a rematch of last seasons first-round playoff series won by Los Angeles.Reserve guard Shaun Livingston, the teams top free agent signing this summer, is playing limited minutes while working his way into shape after missing all of the preseason recovering from surgery on his right big toe. And backup centre Festus Ezeli is still finding his rhythm after sitting out last season rehabilitating from right knee surgery.Even with roles and responsibilities still being cemented under Kerr, the Warriors look like the contender many expected them to be in the deep Western Conference.It says a lot about the guys we have on this team from top to bottom that no matter what situation youre thrown into that you can somehow produce and allow things to happen, Curry said.One of the most recognizable changes the Warriors have made under Kerr is an offence that has more ball movement, breaking away from the isolation-heavy system Jackson used the past three years.Kerrs style has flavours of the triangle offence from his days playing for Phil Jackson in Chicago, the pace-and-space attack of mentor Gregg Popovich in San Antonio and the up-tempo schemes assistant coach Alvin Gentry employed during their time together in Phoenix.The defence, which was among the best in the NBA under Mark Jackson, has remained stout — and the all-around game has given Golden State positive results.The Warriors whipped Sacramento 95-77 on Wednesday, routed the depleted Lakers 127-104 on Saturday and won 95-90 at Portland on Sunday.Were going to continue to get better. Were going to continue to grow, Iguodala said. Theres going to be some ups and downs. Having a year under my belt with this team is going to help weather the storm when things dont go the way we want them to.___Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP ' ' '
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