British Violinist to Ski for Thailand in Winter Olympics

By Amanda Borges
Assistant Digital Editor

British violinist Vanessa Mae has fulfilled her long-term ambiltion to qualify for the Winter Olympics. She will be racing for Thailand, where her father was born

Photo: BBC/Rex

Vanessa-Mae, the violinist, is to put her musical career on ice after being selected to ski for Thailand in the Winter Olympics.

Mae, who has skied since childhood, will be competing as Vanessa Vanakorn using her Thai father’s surname.

Her manager told the BBC that she made the team “by a whisker”.

She has been training since 2010, when she told The Telegraph: “I am taking a plunge. It has been my dream, and I am hoping people will accept I just want to give it my best.”

Under current Olympic qualification rules, countries with no skier ranked in the world’s top 500 may send one man and one woman to the Games, to compete in slalom and giant slalom.

“Vanessa-Mae has unofficially qualified for the Olympic Games. That I could say to you,” said Marko Rudolf, a Slovenian masters skier with links to the committee that organized the races.

Vanessa had to compete in at least five internationally recognized events in order to qualify for several slalom races at the Games next month.

“People are surprised when they see me skiing,” she said. “But it has been my dream to be a ski bum since I was 14. This is something I am determined to do. I wanted to compete for Thailand because there is a part of me which I have never celebrated – being Thai.”

“I have no delusions about a podium or even being in the top 100 in the world,” she said.

She is only the second Thai to compete at a Winter Olympics.

Vanessa, whose full name is Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn Nicholson was born in Singapore to a Chinese mother and a Thai father but was brought up in the UK when her mother remarried a British man. She is a British citizen but she also has a Thai passport.

Vanessa started skiing at age four but her violin playing took precedence.

She sold 10 million albums and was nicknamed ‘Teeny Paganini’ when, at just eight, she became the youngest student at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. At 13, she was the youngest soloist to record both Beethoven and Tchaikovsky concertos.

“I started skiing around the same time as I began playing the piano, at around four, before moving to the violin at five,” she said.

“And I’m lucky that having begun my musical career so young, it’s rather wonderful that I can now focus on my hobby. Not that I’m putting my day job on hold.

“Music will always be my greatest passion. There are still the concerts. To be honest, that became a treadmill. The endless touring, the promotions. By the time I got to 20, I was no longer enjoying it.”

Last year she announced she was taking a year off her music to qualify for the games. But she has previously said that she intends to return to music.

“Living my dream of being a ski bum is great but the best job in the world is being on stage, making music.”

For more on this story, please visit The Telegraph.

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