Snow the new stage for violinist Vanessa-Mae
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — As a violin virtuoso, Vanessa-Mae has been endearing herself to large audiences since she was a small child.
Because of her flourishing musical career, skiing has always played second fiddle. At the Sochi Winter Games, that tune will change.
The classical-pop musician is set to compete for Thailand in the Olympic giant slalom on Tuesday.
Stage fright? Hardly.
The 35-year-old Vanessa-Mae has performed in celebrated concert halls all around the world. To her, this is just another show, another performance. And she’s not expecting to be the star of the show.
Vanessa-Mae was born in Singapore and raised in Britain, but is at the Olympics as one of two athletes on the Thai team. She’ll be competing as Vanessa Vanakorn, using the surname of her Thai father.
“If I’m last, I’ll still have a good time,” Vanessa-Mae said in an interview with The Associated Press after she finished practicing on Friday. “I’m so lucky to be here. I have so much support.”
Vanessa-Mae even left her violin in its case at home, just so skiing had her complete attention.
“I’ll be happy to see (my violin) when I see it again,” Vanessa-Mae admitted as she made her way off the slopes to a nearby car in her typically high-energy way. “I think it’s a bit jealous of my skis at the moment.”
Vanessa-Mae began playing the violin around the age of 5 and rose to fame in 1995 with her debut album “Violin Player.”
As a kid, she also started skiing, but didn’t take it too seriously.
No, she wouldn’t start taking it really seriously until a few months ago, when she got it into her head she wanted to ski at the Sochi Olympics. It was a way to push herself.
“I have a lazy streak, so I thought if I set the goal in a short timeframe, trying to qualify for the Olympics, maybe I’m going to go out there (to ski) not only when the sun is shining,” said Vanessa-Mae, who was able to meet the qualifying criteria spelled out by the International Ski Federation. “Except, the sun is shining every day here so far. So I’ve got the best of both worlds.”
She has no illusions of challenging for a gold medal, just having a good time. She competed in FIS races in Sweden, Norway, Slovenia and Switzerland, and never really threatened the leaders. But she earned enough points to make her eligible for the Olympics.
“I’m going to have such a blast,” she said. And that’s just how she lives her life.
Vanessa-Mae said at some level, playing the violin isn’t much different to giant slalom — each is about finding the perfect rhythm. There are really no nerves, either, even as the competition draws near. That’s a little bit different to a concert.
“I’m pretty chill before a race,” she said. “I’m actually a little bit more awake before a show. You feel you have more of a responsibility toward the audience, because you realize they made the proactive choice not to go to the cinema that night or another show but to your show. Sometimes, that dawns on you.
“With skiing, there’s no pressure on me, so I only have fun.”
No matter the stage, she’s learned to enjoy the moment.
“You have to realize how lucky you are,” she said. “With music, I take it seriously, but I have to pinch myself and remind myself that it’s a dream job. Being a skier, if you start from Day 1, it’s also a dream job.”