By Preechachan Wiriyanupappong
Young Kanes Sucharitakul and violinist-cum-skiier Vanessa Vanakorn bring Thailand back to the Winter Olympics after no Thai figured in the previous edition in Vancouver, Canada, four years ago.
The 2014 Winter Olympic Games kicked off officially in Sochi, Russia yesterday. Athletes from across the globe will take part in 15 sports disciplines, including alpine skiing, figure skating, ski jumping and snowboarding from February 7 to 23.
Both Kanes and Vanessa have qualified for the B class in the alpine skiing event. However, to vie for medals, the qualified athletes must be eligible for the A class. Kanes, who was educated at England’s Cambridge University and will turn 22 next Thursday, is due to compete in the men’s giant slalom and slalom events on February 19 and February 22 respectively, while Vanessa will show her skills in the women’s giant slalom on February 18.
Vanessa Vanakorn, better known as Vanessa Mae, is an eminent violinist whose father hailed from Thailand. She managed to qualify on the last day of qualification by meeting the B standard in a couple of races in Slovenia.
Though her performance as a violinist has earned her plenty of accolades, Vanessa is taking on a new challenge by stepping into the world of competitive skiing. She began skiing at age four, but her music career always took priority as she grew up.
To prepare for the Sochi Games, the professional violinist and pianist who has sold more than 10 million records, moved to Zermatt, Switzerland, in 2009.
“People are surprised when they see me skiing – a classical violinist, Oriental, who has lived in the city all her life. But it has been my dream to be a ski bum since I was 14.
“This is something I am determined to do,” said the Singapore-born Vanessa, who was brought up in England and is a British citizen but also holds a Thai passport.
“I’m British but realistically there is no way I could represent my own country at the Winter Olympics, but because my father is Thai, whose family name is Vanakorn, they have accepted me. I wanted to compete for Thailand because there is a part of me which I have never celebrated – being Thai,” Vanessa added.
Meanwhile, Thailand’s team leader Dr Varin Tansupasiri, the deputy secretary-general of the Olympic Committee of Thailand, said though both athletes stand no chance of returning with medals, it is a source of great pride to have athletes from Thailand competing in the Sochi Games.
“It’s a matter of fact that there is no snow in Thailand, but what really counts is that our athletes have qualified for the Winter Olympic Games. Though it’s quite certain that both of them will return with no medals, they have already made the country proud,” he said.
Prawat Nagvajara was the first Thai to take part in the Winter Olympics, in Salt Lake City, US, in 2002. He made another attempt in the Turin Games in Italy, in 2006. Thailand had no participants in the 2010 Games in Vancouver, Canada, but can now boast two athletes in Sochi, Russia.