Entertainment & Arts

Vanessa-Mae puts music aside for a year in Olympic bid

Image caption Mae has wanted to be a "ski bum" since she was 14

Violinist Vanessa-Mae has put her musical career on ice for a year in a bid to ski for Thailand at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Mae, 34, aims to compete in at least five internationally recognised events in order to qualify for several slalom races at the Games next February.

"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."

Describing herself as "a classical violinist who has lived in the city all her life," she would be only the second Thai to compete at a Winter Olympics if she qualifies.

Academic Prawat Nagvajara was a cross-country skier for Thailand at both the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and the 2006 Turin Games.

Mae started skiing aged four but her violin playing took precedence and she made her international professional debut aged 10, marking herself out by mixing classical music with pop and cultivating a glamorous image.

Mae, 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 Briton. She is a British citizen but she also has a Thai passport.

Speaking to the Reuters news agency, she said: "I wanted to compete for Thailand because there is a part of me which I have never celebrated - being Thai,".

She added that although her father, "like most Thais", has never skied, he was "really excited about me doing this, as is the Thai Olympic Committee".

She moved to the Swiss alpine resort of Zermatt in 2009 where she is now in training and hopes to compete in her first event by April.

Image caption She intends to return to music when her year is up

International Ski Federation spokeswoman Riikka Rakic said the violinist was one of five actively registered Thai athletes so she has a licence to compete for Thailand but she needs a minimum of five starts in FIS (Federation Internationale de Ski) competitions to qualify for the Olympics.

"She has a full year to quality and there are many events so there are plenty of options," said Ms Rakic.

A National Olympic Committee of Thailand spokesman said Mae would be welcome to race for Thailand if she qualified. So far no Thai athlete has qualified for Sochi.

Mae said she has given herself a year off as she works better with a deadline.

"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."

Whether she succeeds or fails, Mae said she intends to return to music, adding: "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."

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