Vanessa-Mae Olympic qualification scandal rocks Slovenian Ski Association
Following allegations that some of last year’s results pop violinist Vanessa-Mae used to qualify for the Winter Olympics in Sochi were rigged, four Slovenian ski officials were suspended Friday (July 11).
The famed musician competed in Sochi for Thailand as Vanessa Vanakorn, the surname of her Thai father, and she placed last among the 67 racers who finished both runs of giant slalom, more than 50 seconds slower than race winner Tina Maze.
Mae, who was born in Singapore but raised in Britain, has sold an estimated 10 million records as a violinist.
In order to compete in the Olympic Winter Games under the basic quota, alpine skiers needed to accrue a maximum of 140 points in the respective event on the Olympic FIS Points List published on Jan. 20, 2014. Unlike traditional FIS point lists which only average the two best races, the Olympic FIS Points List was calculated using the average of five races for the technical events.
The Slovenian Ski Association announced it discovered evidence indicating that the races it hosted in January were “fixed at the behest of Thai ski officials to meet her qualifying criteria for Sochi.”
Slovenian Ski Association director Jurij Zurej indicated that the suspected irregularities included falsification of rankings, race times, and race dates.
“When we checked the competition and all the data, we discovered that, on the results list on the second day of the competition, in fourth place there was a girl not even physically present at the course,” said Zurej. “Another example was of a girl who told us she fell in the race and then slowly continued to the finish line, but was recorded as finishing in second place.”
The Slovenian Ski Association has proposed four-year suspensions for the officials involved in the organization of the races, including Vlado Makuc, the head of the country’s alpine skiing body.
Zurej said there was no direct evidence to link the alleged improprieties to Mae’s qualification for the Sochi Games and no evidence any athletes were involved in any wrongdoing.
“We must state clearly that there is absolutely no proof any athlete, including Vanessa, was knowingly involved in any activities that would breach any of our rules or those of the International Ski Federation,” noted Zurej.
Mae competed in four races on Mount Krvavec in Slovenia in January. According to the reports sent to FIS, two events took place on Jan. 17 and another two on Jan. 19. However, Zurej said the first two races were actually held on Jan. 18.
Mae only managed to fall below the 140-point average because of the races held in Slovenia. One of the races was registered as the Thai National Championships and another was the Slovenian National Junior Championships, in which the 35-year-old Mae was 14 years older than any other competitor in the event.
FIS President Gian Franco Kasper reportedly said he was “disappointed” by the alleged cheating but that no action could be taken until the Slovenian association completes its inquiry.
Vanessa-Mae also competed in races in Sweden, Norway and Italy before the Sochi Games but no cheating was reported from those events. Given her results from those races, she would not have qualified for the 2014 Olympics.