London: The last time a tropical country took part in the Winter Olympics, it caused an almighty stir. It was the Jamaican four-man bobsleigh squad and they debuted at the 1988 Games in Calgary, Alberta.
This colourful, cool, but talented unit soon gained increasing popularity and they matched the adulation with some stirring performances. The story was celebrated as they were given the ‘underdog’ tag at the Games. It was a novelty at the very least and even a movie, ‘Cool Runnings’, was made to celebrate this quirky story.
If form favours ambition, then there might be another unlikely storyline developing — except this protagonist is already a famous personality. The target is the 2014 Winter games in Sochi, Russia, and the participant could be none other than world famous violinist Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn Nicholson, or simply Vanessa Mae.
Mae is planning to represent Thailand, as her father was of Thai descent, in skiing. Speaking to Gulf News she said: “People were like going insane when I told them what I wanted to do. They said ‘oh, she’s going to go and break something’. Well, I already broke something in 2009. But no, I am serious about qualifying because it changes my outlook on life because it is serious work.”
Mae, who is based in Switzerland, is undaunted and refuses to let anything anything distract her from her goal. “Being a musician is all about being artistic and creative and here I am at the age of 33 trying to qualify for the Winter Olympics. It’s a new start for me.”
The goal started off by her wanting to become a better skier. “That was my main ambition,” Mae said. “I thought the way to do that is to set a challenge which is beyond what I need and so that’s how I did it. And since I live in Switzerland it made sense to ski every day.”
Not the safest of sports, especially when one is starting out, Mae has taken her fair share of knocks and falls. “I broke my elbow in 2009. I walked out of a ski lift and on to the ski slope and fell and broke my elbow. I didn’t know about it till 24 hours later. I had it in a cast for seven weeks then I had one week before a show just to get in touch with a violin again, but I did it,” she said.
Should Mae make it to Sochi, she will become the first alpine skier from Thailand. “There is no Winter Olympics Committee in Thailand, so I took it upon myself to qualify,” she said, giggling mischievously.
That’s Mae’s immediate goals for the future and, after Sochi, it will be back to the world of music. “At the moment I have no time for an album. I would love to collaborate with other musicians but the idea is for developing a solo album and this will be after the Olympics,” she said.
So for the moment it’s all about cool runnings.