Olympics | Skiing

British musician takes skiing for Thailand seriously

 
 
Former musician Vanessa-Mae, who will compete for Thailand as alpine skier Vanessa Vanakorn stands on the alpine skiing training slopes Monday in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
Former musician Vanessa-Mae, who will compete for Thailand as alpine skier Vanessa Vanakorn stands on the alpine skiing training slopes Monday in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
Alessandro Trovati / AP
WEB VOTE How have U.S. athletes performed so far at the Winter Olympics?

mkaufman@MiamiHerald.com

Tina Maze, the Slovenian Olympic gold medalist in the downhill and a favorite for Tuesday’s giant slalom, is a pop star in her home country. Her single, My Way is My Decision, reached the top of the charts in 2012.

But she won’t be the most famous musician on the race course Tuesday at Rosa Kutor Alpine Center.

Vanessa Vanakorn, better known as Vanessa-Mae, is a 35-year-old professional violinist and sex symbol who has sold more than 10 million records and recorded with the likes of Janet Jackson and Prince. She is known for her blend of classical-pop-techno style and her racy photo shoots.

She was born in Singapore to a Chinese mother and a Thai father, was raised in London but will be competing for Thailand under her father’s surname. She is a huge star in England, where in 2006 she was named the wealthiest artist younger than 30. The British media have been covering her Olympic endeavor closely.

She is a child prodigy who made her professional debut at age 10 in Germany. By 13, she had become the youngest solo violinist to record both the Beethoven and Tchaikovsky concertos, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

“People are surprised when they see me skiing — a classical violinist, Oriental, who has lived in the city all her life,” Vanakorn told British reporters before coming to the Games. “But it has been my dream to be a ski bum since I was 14. This is something I’m determined to do.”

She began skiing at 4 but considered that more of a hobby while she focused on violin.

Though she is a British citizen, she said she chose to compete for her birth nation because it would have been too difficult to make the British ski team.

“I’m British, but realistically, there is no way I could represent my own country. But because my natural father is Thai, they have accepted me. I wanted to compete for Thailand because there is a part of me that I have never celebrated — being Thai.”

Because Thailand has no skiers ranked in the top 500 in the world, the International Olympic Committee allows the nation to send one man and one woman for the slalom and giant slalom events if they have an average of no more than 140 points over five internationally recognized races.

Mae has been training for four years in Zermatt, Switzerland, and finally qualified after four races in Slovenia. She insists racing in the Olympics is not a publicity stunt and that skiing has her full focus while she’s here.

Mae’s manager, Giles Holland, has been turning away interview requests and said she is not seeking publicity as she prepares for her race.

“Vanessa has been told by her coach to turn off her BlackBerry,” Holland said. “She knows that the Olympic Games require her full focus. She wants to do well. Already, she is torn in two, with her music career. She doesn’t want any more distractions.”

The other skiers — particularly those from Europe — are aware of the celebrity violinist and have been welcoming to her at the ski venue. “It’s interesting there are such people among us, when you see her, how small she is, how petite,” Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany said of the 5-3 Vanakorn.

She may be diminutive, but she surely will be noticed on the mountain.

Read more Olympics stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
In this photo taken Thursday Aug. 14, 2014, performers tied to wires to rehearse for the opening ceremony of the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympic Games which opens Aug 16, 2014 in Nanjing in east China's Jiangsu province. (AP Photo) CHINA OUT

    Youth Olympics open in China amid Ebola worries

    Fears of the Ebola virus cast a cloud over Saturday's opening of the second Youth Olympics in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, after three athletes were barred from competition because of the risk of infection.

  •  
A Liberian woman holds up a pamphlet with guidance on how to prevent the Ebola virus from spreading, in the city of Monrovia, Liberia, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. Liberian officials faced a difficult choice Thursday: deciding which handful of Ebola patients will receive an experimental drug that could prove life-saving, ineffective or even harmful.

    Ebola: 3 athletes can't compete at Youth Olympics

    Three teenage athletes from the Ebola-affected region of Africa will not be allowed to compete at the Youth Olympics in China because of the risk of possible infection, the IOC and local organizers said Friday.

  • Ebola forces Sierra Leone to skip Youth Olympics

    Sierra Leone's National Olympic Committee says its delegation for the upcoming youth games was asked not to travel to China because of an outbreak of Ebola.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category