Violinist Vanessa-Mae is swapping her violin and bow for skis and ski poles as she bids to compete at the Olympics
By Christiane Oelrich
Concert-goers know the petite, almond-eyed beauty as a true dynamo: violinist Vanessa-Mae sweeps across the stage, electrifying audiences with her virtuoso performances ranging from classical to techno, and her daring gowns and provocative poses.
Now the 34-year-old wants to sweep down the slopes for Thailand at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.“You have to take risks in life every now and then, otherwise it’s no fun,” she said.
Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn Nicholson – her full name – has been living in the Swiss alpine resort of Zermatt since 2009 and training for a slalom event. “Skiing has always been my hobby, and now that I live in the Alps, I thought it was time to set myself the challenge of bettering my skiing within a year,” she said.
Having amassed a $60m fortune by the age of 24, becoming the wealthiest young entertainer in Britain in the process, Vanessa-Mae can afford to pursue bold dreams.
She was born in 1978 in Singapore to a Chinese mother and Thai father, and moved to London with her mother at the age of four.
A British citizen, she also holds a Thai passport and wants to ski in the Olympics for her father’s homeland, despite knowing just “a couple of Thai words”. “It is fun to finally get to represent my Thai side,” she said.
Thais like the idea. “We welcome her 100% because everyone knows Vanessa-Mae,” said Tassanai Mukkawichit, head of external relations for the National Olympic Committee of Thailand (NOCT). He noted, however, that the musician had not yet contacted the NOCT.
The only person to have represented Thailand at the Winter Games, Prawat Nagvajara, limped away from Salt Lake City in 2006 medal-less and with a broken leg.
Vanessa-Mae entered the Guinness Book of World Records at 13, when she became the youngest soloist to record both the Beethoven and Tchaikovsky violin concertos. At 16, her first techno pop-style album, The Violin Player, made her world famous.
Vanessa-Mae was pushed hard by her ambitious mother, who once said her love for her daughter was “conditional” on Vanessa-Mae’s performance as a musician.
“It was a pretty heartless thing to say,” Vanessa-Mae said. When she was 21, she sacked her mother as her manager, and the two broke off contact.
Asked whether there were parallels in the pursuit of perfection on the violin and on the slopes, Vanessa-Mae replied: “Technique, experience and sensitivity are key.”
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