By Belinda Goldsmith
LONDON (Reuters) - Violinist Vanessa-Mae has put music on hold for a year and is rehearsing for a new role - skiing for Thailand at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February 2014.
Vanessa-Mae, 34, is in training with the aim of competing in at least five internationally recognized events to qualify for the giant slalom and possibly the slalom at the Sochi Olympics.
"People are surprised when they see me skiing - a classical violinist, Oriental, who has lived in the city all her life," Vanessa-Mae told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"But it has been my dream to be a ski bum since I was 14. This is something I am determined to do."
The violinist is a British citizen but she also holds a Thai passport. She was born in Singapore to a Chinese mother and a Thai father but she was brought up in England when her mother remarried a Briton.
Vanessa-Mae, whose full name is Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn Nicholson, would be only the second Thai to compete at a Winter Olympics if she qualified. Academic Prawat Nagvajara represented Thailand in cross-country skiing at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics.
"I wanted to compete for Thailand because there is a part of me which I have never celebrated -- being Thai," said Vanessa-Mae. "My father, like most Thais, has never skied but he's really excited about me doing this as is the Thai Olympic Committee."
Vanessa-Mae started skiing at the age of 4 but music has always been her priority. She made her international professional debut aged 10 and made her mark on the world stage when she broke from tradition and became known for her sexy, glamorous style and for mixing classical music with pop.
Her first techno pop-style album, "The Violin Player," was released in 1995 and reached No. 11 in the UK albums chart and she has not stop touring since, although she has not released a new album since 2004.
Vanessa-Mae said she had always wanted to spend more time on her other passion, skiing, so moved to the Swiss alpine resort of Zermatt in 2009 where she is now in training for the Olympics. She hopes to compete in her first event by April.
International Ski Federation spokeswoman Riikka Rakic said Vanessa-Mae was one of five actively registered Thai athletes so she has a license to compete for Thailand but she needs a minimum of five starts in FIS (Federation Internationale de Ski) competitions and certain points to qualify for the Olympics.
"She has a full year to quality and there are many events so there are plenty of options still," said Rakic.
A National Olympic Committee of Thailand spokesman said Vanessa-Mae would be welcome to race for Thailand if she qualified. So far no Thai athlete has qualified for Sochi.
Vanessa-Mae said she knew it would be tough to make the Olympics but she had given herself a year sabbatical from music to do this -- and always worked better with a deadline.
"When it comes to music I am a perfectionist but when it is skiing, I have no delusions about a podium or even being in the top 100 in the world," she said.
"Of course there is a risk that I could break something but life is short and you have to go for it. Just to qualify for the Olympics in my hobby would be a dream come true for me."
Once Sochi is over, she intends to return to music.
"It's time for a new album but doing this will give me a new perspective. Living my dream of being a ski bum is great but the best job in the world is being on stage, making music," she said.
(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, editing by Paul Casciato)