Vanessa Mae battles down giant slalom

RUSSIA - Violin virtuoso Vanessa Mae, representing Thailand, battled down the rain-hit first run of the women's giant slalom on Tuesday in the slowest time in the field.

The 35-year-old Singapore-born British former child prodigy was the 86th racer down the Rosa Khutor course in warm, rainy conditions that made for softer snow in parts. Hesitantly out of the starting gate, she clocked 1min 44.86sec down the course, finishing a massive 26.98sec behind Slovenian leader Tina Maze. She was 74th and slowest in the field, 7.83sec behind closest rival Xia Lina of China.

But at least she finished - 15 failed to make it down. Donning an orange helmet and largely dark blue catsuit, Mae negotiated the course with a conservative skiing style, clearly lacking the cutting edge of Maze and other leaders in the discipline. Although a British citizen, strict British Olympic Association rules on team selection for alpine skiing saw Mae, who competes under her birth father's surname Vanakorn, take Thai citizenship in her bid to make the Olympics.

Mae, whose full name is Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn Nicholson, made her name as a child classical violinist before becoming renowned for what she has described as her "techno-acoustic fusion". While not well known in Thailand, she became a household name in Britain, with worldwide record sales in excess of 10 million.