Vanessa-Mae to ski for Thailand at Winter Olympics
Violinist makes the grade with last-ditch effort at Slovenian junior championship
VIOLINIST Vanessa-Mae is set to ski for Thailand at next month's Winter Olympics after a "last-ditch" effort to meet the qualification standards in Slovenia, which saw her racing against a field of teenagers.
The 35-year-old musician was born in Singapore and grew up in London, but her father is from Thailand and she has been competing under his surname, Vanakorn. She is thought to have qualified after good performances in four giant slalom races in Slovenia over the weekend.
Countries with no skier in the world's top 500, like Thailand, can still send a competitor to the games if they can average less than 140 penalty points over five races. Mae appears to have met those criteria with four top ten finishes at the weekend.
With time running out Mae entered a national junior championship in Slovenia, even though she was more than 14 years older than any of her rivals. However, the move seems to have paid off. Her manager Giles Holland told the BBC: "It would appear that she's done it. She's done it by a whisker, but she's done it."
Slovenian masters skier Marko Rudolf added: "Vanessa Mae has unofficially qualified for the Olympic Games."
Skiing's governing body, FIS, is expected to confirm her qualification today.
Last year Mae told the Daily Telegraph: "It has been my dream to be a ski bum since I was 14. This is something I am determined to do. I wanted to compete for Thailand because there is a part of me which I have never celebrated - being Thai. I have no delusions about a podium or even being in the top 100 in the world."
The only other Thai to ski at the Winter Olympics was academic Prawat Nagvajara, who competed in Salt Lake City in 2002 and at Pragelato in Italy in 2006.
Vanessa-Mae is not the only unlikely competitor on the road to Sochi. The Jamaican bobsleigh team has also achieved the qualifying standard, but will not be able to compete without additional funding.
Last month Heather Mills, the ex-wife of Paul McCartney, saw her dreams of skiing at the Sochi Paralympics dashed after a row with officials over her prosthetic leg.