November 29, 2015

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) Think Mikaela Shiffrin is fast on race day? Try keeping up with her in training sessions.

Then again, maybe not. She's speedy enough once the competition starts.

Shiffrin won back-to-back World Cup slalom races in Aspen, overcoming an early mistake in her final run Sunday to still win by a gigantic margin.

The 20-year-old American finished in 1 minute, 40.18 seconds, beating Frida Hansdotter of Sweden by 2.65 seconds. Sarka Strachova of Czech Republic was third, 2.90 back. Those were the only two competitors within three seconds of the reigning Olympic and world slalom champion.

''It's just really difficult to catch her,'' Strachova said. ''She's in another class.''

Shiffrin insisted no one has even seen her best skiing yet. She's faster in training, once she's had a few runs to warm up.

''I don't know if you'll ever see my best skiing in a race,'' said Shiffrin, who's from nearby Eagle-Vail.

Sort of hard to believe, especially considering the margins she's winning by at the moment.

Shiffrin got a little wild and was off balance early in her last run Sunday or the gap may have been even more. She won the slalom Saturday by 3.07 seconds, the largest margin of victory in World Cup history for the women's discipline. It was a mark that had stood since 1968.

''There's a little bit of a target painted on my back now,'' Shiffrin said. ''Nobody likes to get beat by three seconds. I'd hate to be in that position. I remember being in (Finland) and two seconds out and thinking, `I'm so mad.' I'm sure they are probably (mad), too.''

Not so much mad as motivated. Hansdotter plans to watch video of Shiffrin's races, just to see if she can spot something she can use.

''I really love how she makes it (look) so easy to ski,'' Hansdotter said. She's skiing so economic. Like, real easy.''

Part of Shiffrin's dominance this weekend may have been that she's skiing on such familiar snow - an aggressive surface that suits her well. At least, Hansdotter is hoping that's the case.

''I hope it will not be like this in the future,'' said Hansdotter, who has finished second in 13 World Cup slalom races in her career. ''But for sure it's really impressive.''

This was Shiffrin's fifth straight World Cup slalom win dating to last season. It's the longest streak in slalom by a female skier since Marlies Schild of Austria took five in a row in 2011-12.

Shiffrin's performance Sunday capped off quite a weekend of racing after a rough start. She crashed near the finish in the giant slalom Friday, but bounced back for an impressive victory.

''Three great races, really,'' said Shiffrin, who was carried off the slope on the shoulders of her teammates. ''The GS was disappointing, but still a great race. Today was awesome. Yesterday was awesome.''

But don't hand Shiffrin her fourth straight World Cup slalom title just yet. There are plenty of races left to close the gap.

''I think we will try to catch her, for sure,'' said Slovakia's Veronika Velez Zuzulova, who finished second Saturday but wiped out in her first run Sunday. ''It's just the beginning of the season. We'll see. We will find a way to catch her.''

Any friendly advice to make that happen?

''They're not that far away,'' Shiffrin said. ''There wasn't a lot of time between yesterday's race (and Sunday) to regroup. I had an advantage because yesterday my tactic worked. Everyone else was trying to come up with a new plan.''

Her plan was simple: Attack the course. She made a miscalculation up top, but practices for those sorts of situations. When it happened, she was prepared.

''I was fired up and ready to go,'' Shiffrin said. ''For the rest of the course, I tried to find a rhythm and keep attacking, keep my pace up.''

Next up for Shiffrin is her voyage into speed. She will head to Lake Louise, Alberta, next weekend and compete in a super-G. That's Lindsey Vonn's territory.

''I'll be going for it,'' Shiffrin said. ''I just don't know where that will put me.''

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