Rosa Khutor: Violin virtuoso Vanessa Mae, Thailand's first ever female skier at the Olympics, came last in a rainy giant slalom yesterday but was still bubbling with joy after finishing the slushy course.
Thailand's Vanessa Vanakorn (Mae) competes during the women's giant slalom event yesterday. INSET: Mae performs at the Sydney Opera House in March, 2005. Pic/Getty Images
The Singapore-born British former child prodigy came through the finish line in 67th place after two runs, a massive 50.10sec behind winner Tina Maze of Slovenia. Hesitantly out of the starting gate, she clocked 3min 26.97sec down the course, 11.35sec behind her closest rival Xia Lina of China.
But at least, she finished both runs — unlike 22 others who failed to make it down. And coming long after top medal contenders who fought for every hundredth of a second, the 35-year-old Mae — racing under the name Vanessa Vanakorn — was happy with her result.
"I expected to be last but at the end of the day the Olympics is a great opportunity," she said after her first run. "I nearly crashed three times, but I made it down and that was the main thing. Just the experience of being here is amazing. I was worried I was going to get lost (on the course), but I just about managed it."
That kind of girl...
"I'm a last-minute kind of girl, I mean training for the Olympics with six months to go was a last-minute thing. My main purpose of being here was to really have a good time, to improve my skiing in a very short amount of time," she said.
Although a British citizen, strict British Olympic Association rules on team selection for alpine skiing saw Mae take Thai citizenship in her bid to make the Olympics.
The violinist — who has described music as her "lifelong passion" but skiing as her "lifelong hobby" — eventually qualified after getting the required number of points in four races in Slovenia.
On Tuesday, donning an orange helmet and largely dark blue catsuit, Mae negotiated the course with a conservative style, clearly lacking the cutting edge of Maze and other leaders in the discipline.
Still she dismissed talk of a possible injury that could hurt her other career. "You have to take risks in life at the end of the day. You can insure yourself up to your eyeballs but you won't enjoy life."
Mae, whose full name is Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn Nicholson, made her name as a child classical violinist before becoming renowned for what she has described as her "techno-acoustic fusion".
While not well known in Thailand, she became a household name in Britain, with worldwide record sales in excess of 10 million.