The Sochi Network

Vanessa Mae transforms into Olympian

The Sochi Network

View gallery


Vanessa Mae, competing for Thailand under her father's name Vanessa Vanakorn, reacts in the finish area after competing …

Vanessa Mae is still fondly remembered as the stunning Singaporean-born violinist who made classical music sexy in the 1990s.

So much so, in fact, that when she announced her intention several years ago to compete at the Olympics there was widespread bemusement - and when she somehow found a way to qualify for Thailand via her father's family roots, the news was greeted with a mixture of amazement, excitement and ridicule. Not to mention lots of jokes about adding another string to her bow, of course.

But all the doubters must now take their hats off to the 35-year-old: she lined up at the giant slalom in Sochi on Tuesday morning, and successfully made it down the piste in one piece.

Sure, her time wasn't great. In fact, it was pretty awful: she clocked one minute 44.86 seconds to sit 27 seconds off the lead held by Slovenia's Tina Maze.

Give the violinist her due, however: she was within ten seconds of the times clocked by such alpine skiing luminaries as Elise Pellgrin of Malta and Moroccco's Kenz Tazi.

And more to the point, she finished the course in one piece - which is more than can be said for 16 of the 90 competitors in the event. She'll have another go in the second run later on Tuesday, but even if she falters second time round she's already done enough to prove that she justified her selection.

View gallery


The story of her journey to Sochi is extraordinary. She spent years in training with the aim of competing in at least five internationally recognised events to qualify for the giant slalom at the Sochi Olympics.

"People are surprised when they see me skiing - a classical violinist, Oriental, who has lived in the city all her life," Vanessa-Mae said last year before qualifying.

"But it has been my dream to be a ski bum since I was 14. This is something I am determined to do."

The violinist is a British citizen but she also holds a Thai passport. She was born in Singapore to a Chinese mother and a Thai father but she was brought up in England when her mother remarried a Briton.

Vanessa-Mae, whose full name is Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn Nicholson, is only the second Thai to compete at a Winter Olympics. Academic Prawat Nagvajara represented Thailand in cross-country skiing at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics.

"I wanted to compete for Thailand because there is a part of me which I have never celebrated - being Thai," said Vanessa-Mae. The fact that she had no competition for places probably didn't hurt either, as this picture of the entire Thai team at the opening ceremony shows:

View gallery


Thailand's team at the Sochi opening cermony

Vanessa-Mae started skiing at the age of 4 but music has always been her priority. She made her international professional debut aged 10 and made her mark on the world stage when she broke from tradition and became known for her sexy, glamorous style and for mixing classical music with pop.

Her first techno pop-style album, "The Violin Player", was released in 1995 and reached No.11 in the UK albums chart and she has not stop touring since, although she has not released a new album since 2004.

Vanessa-Mae said she had always wanted to spend more time on her other passion, skiing, so moved to the Swiss alpine resort of Zermatt in 2009 where she trained for the Olympics.

Yet despite that dedication, she was always open about her prospects of success.

"When it comes to music I am a perfectionist but when it is skiing, I have no delusions about a podium or even being in the top 100 in the world," she said.

"Of course there is a risk that I could break something but life is short and you have to go for it. Just to qualify for the Olympics in my hobby would be a dream come true for me."

Once Sochi is over, she intends to return to music - and the boost to her profile from competing at the Olympics is something she appears keen to cash in on.

"It's time for a new album but doing this will give me a new perspective. Living my dream of being a ski bum is great but the best job in the world is being on stage, making music," she said.

View comments (30)