Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Snow Queen: Violinist Mae to compete in Sochi

January 20, 2014 -- Updated 2344 GMT (0744 HKT)
Vanessa Mae says she first skied at the age of four, a year before she started to learn the violin.
Vanessa Mae says she first skied at the age of four, a year before she started to learn the violin.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Violinist Vanessa Mae qualifies for Sochi 2014 in alpine skiing
  • Musician will compete as Vanessa Vanakorn, her father's surname, for Thailand
  • Child prodigy has sold 10 million albums worldwide
  • Only one Thai has previously competed at the Winter Olympics

(CNN) -- Over the years, the Winter Olympics has thrown up a variety of competitors that defy logic.

There was Jamaica's legendary bobsled team, a cross-country skier from Kenya and Britain's Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards, whose inept performances in 1988 prompted a change in the qualifying rules.

Now, one of the world's most famous violinists can be added to the eclectic mix.

This weekend, Vanessa Mae -- who has sold over 10 million albums worldwide -- sneaked through qualifying for next month's Olympics.

"She's done it by a whisker, but she's done it," manager Giles Holland told the BBC.

Winter Olympics threat
The most expensive Olympics ever
Terror video threatens Winter Olympics
Sen. on Sochi security: 'I would not go'
Sochi protesters struggle to be heard
Putin speaks on welcoming gays in Sochi

In Sochi, Mae will compete as Vanessa Vanakorn, using the surname of her Thai father and representing his homeland as well.

She may be used to racing through scales, her fingers dancing atop the strings of a violin, but the 35-year-old must now negotiate a very different rhythm as she is pitched into the giant slalom.

Read: Sochi hotels warned of terror suspect

With the Games starting on February 7, Mae left it late to book her place -- only claiming the relevant qualifying marks this weekend, which the International Ski Federation (FIS) confirmed on Monday.

Olympic qualification rules determine that countries without a skier ranked in the world's top 500 can send one male and one female competitor to the Games -- to compete in slalom and giant slalom -- as long as the athletes can achieve a second set of criteria.

This was to produce an average of 140 points or fewer over five recognized races.

She managed this over the weekend after competing in four giant slalom races in Slovenia, even competing in a national junior championship race where the diminutive Mae, 5ft 3in, stuck out by virtue of being 14 years older than her nearest rival.

"According to the qualification system which we have, which requires her to start at least five slalom or giant slalom races, she has done so," said Ana Jelusic, the FIS's Alpine media co-ordinator.

"It also requires her to come below a certain number of FIS points, which in this case is 140. She has done so."

Lifelong Hobby

Mae started skiing at the age of four, a year before she took up the violin, and she describes the sport as her 'lifelong hobby'.

Such an attitude fueled her decision to relocate from London to Zermatt, after buying a house in the Swiss resort in 2009, where she lives with long-term boyfriend Lionel Catelan, for whom skiing is also in the blood after growing up in the French town of Val d'Isère.

The musician will become only the second Winter Olympian to represent Thailand.

In 2002, Prawat Nagvajara was so slow on his debut that he was pulled out of his race, before improving -- as it were -- to finish last in his cross country event at the Turin Games four years later.

At the age of 10, Mae made her solo debut with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. Three years later, she was the youngest soloist ever to record the demanding Beethoven and Tchaikovsky violin concertos.

Born in Singapore, she grew up in London where she became famous for what she herself has termed "techno-acoustic fusion", a mix of classical and modern styles.

Mae has said that she will return to her music once her Olympic dream is over.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
May 7, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Photography can really pack a punch. Catch up with all the best shots from around the world with our weekly sports gallery.
May 7, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Of course not. But former Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed seems to think the removal of Michael Jackson's statue was a very "bad" idea.
May 7, 2014 -- Updated 1636 GMT (0036 HKT)
Second-tier French side Clermont Foot appoint Helena Costa -- the country's first ever professional female coach of a male team.
April 28, 2014 -- Updated 1513 GMT (2313 HKT)
San Francisco 49ers owner and co-chairman John York speaks to CNN about Michael Sam and the upcoming NFL Draft.
April 25, 2014 -- Updated 1733 GMT (0133 HKT)
The All Blacks and their fans are focused on one thing, says Dan Carter: becoming the first rugby nation to win back-to-back World Cups.
April 4, 2014 -- Updated 1308 GMT (2108 HKT)
The 2002 bomb attacks in Bali had many victims -- including a touring rugby team from Hong Kong.
Photographer Danny Lyon spent three days with Muhammad Ali in 1972 and shares his best photos and memories of the champ.
February 25, 2014 -- Updated 1254 GMT (2054 HKT)
With a growing audience boosted by the drama of ice hockey on show in Sochi at the Winter Olympics, can the sport capitalize on its popularity?
January 20, 2014 -- Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT)
Her paintings may sell for thousands of dollars, but she is best known for a modeling shot 50 years ago that helped launch a business empire.
January 9, 2014 -- Updated 1701 GMT (0101 HKT)
When the eye of the storm closes in most people head home -- but for these surfers it's a different story.
January 6, 2014 -- Updated 1445 GMT (2245 HKT)
Gareth Evans is a school teacher in South Africa. In 1983, he attended a "rebel tour" cricket match against the West Indies.
December 17, 2013 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
In the wake of protests in his native Ukraine, heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko has turned his back on boxing to focus on his political ambitions.
August 9, 2013 -- Updated 0920 GMT (1720 HKT)
Former pole vaulter Sergei Bubka is running to be president of the International Olympic Committee.
The Olympics must use its global reach and immense popularity to help save a generation, says sporting icon Sergei Bubka.
August 7, 2013 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
CNN's Fred Pleitgen exposes a history of German government-funded doping throughout the Cold War.
April 9, 2013 -- Updated 1628 GMT (0028 HKT)
A competitor crosses the erg Znaigui during the second stage of the 26rd edition of the 'Marathon des Sables', on April 4, 2011, some 300 Kilometers, South of Ouarzazate in Morocco. The marathon is considered one of the hardest in the world, with 900 participants having to walk 250 kms (150 miles) for seven days in the Moroccan Sahara.
A six-day run that covers more than 220 km through the scorching heat of the Sahara desert has been billed as the "World's toughest race."
April 10, 2013 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
He plays the only sport approved by the Taliban, a game he learned as a war refugee in Pakistan.
ADVERTISEMENT