After selling more than 10 million albums, world-renowned violinist Vanessa-Mae is on her way to realizing a lifelong dream outside the realm of music: skiing in the Winter Olympics.
Vanessa-Mae, whose full name is Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn Nicholson, gained international acclaim after releasing her debut album The Violin Player in 1995. A child prodigy who picked up her first violin at age 5, Vanessa-Mae captured the hearts of both classical music lovers and contemporary pop fans with her self-described “techno-acoustic fusion” and sexy live performances.
Though born in Singapore and raised in London by her Thai mother and British stepfather, Vanessa-Mae was selected to represent Thailand in the giant slalom at the Sochi Games next month. She will compete as Vanessa Vanakorn, using her father’s surname.
Vanessa-Mae began skiing at the age of 4, a year before discovering her talent as a violinist. As her music career blossomed, her time on the mountain waned.
“Her ambition in her early teens was to be a ski bum,” wrote Reuters, “But she said music was always a priority and she has not stopped touring since her first album in 1995.”
The virtuoso announced her ambition to compete in the Olympics back in 2010, telling The Daily Telegraph, “It has been my dream and I am hoping people will accept I just want to give it my best. I am taking a plunge. I am British, but realistically there is no way I could represent [the U.K]. But because my natural father is Thai, they have accepted me.”
Her acceptance didn’t come easily. Vanessa-Mae has to compete in four International Ski Federation (FIS) sanctioned races over the weekend in Slovenia – including a showing at the national junior championships. At 35, she was 14 years older than the next oldest contestant.
In an effort to keep the Winter Olympics from becoming dominated by Europe and North America, the International Olympic Committee has special qualification criteria for countries without any skiers ranked in the world’s top 500. The tropical nation of Thailand – with an average January temperature around 30 degrees Celsius – fit the bill.
Additionally, Vanessa-Mae was required to score below 140 points in five races recognized by FIS. Points are scored on an inverse scale based on performance, with a lower number denoting a higher rank.
“It would appear that she’s done it,” Giles Holland, Vanessa-Mae’s manager, told the BBC on Monday. “She’s done it by a whisker, but she’s done it.”