Olympics-Alpine skiing-Mae's Thai team mate packs a punch


By Alan Baldwin

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Kanes Sucharitakul has gone from the playing fields of Eton, through boxing for Cambridge University to making his Winter Olympic debut on Wednesday as half of Thailand's Alpine ski team.

The other half, violinist Vanessa Mae, had camera crews queuing up to interview her on Tuesday when she came comfortably last in the women's giant slalom but Sucharitakul passed almost unnoticed through the mixed zone.

"She's very popular with the media. This is my second interview here, I think," the 22-year-old post-graduate student, who was rather more proficient on his skis and came 65th out of 72 finishers and 109 starters, smiled politely.

"The first time I met her was at the Olympic Games. I've never really communicated with her before. Our trainings were separate, we didn't even organise the jackets and uniforms together.

"In a sense we are team mates because we are skiing for Thailand, but we haven't really got that camaraderie," he explained in the sort of accent one would expect from an ex-alumnus of one England's most distinguished private schools.

Sucharitakul, a biologist who graduated last June and is planning to start a masters in epidemiology at London University's Imperial College, was more concerned with his performance on the piste.

"It was quite messy but I tried to keep a little bit of speed, I just found it so hard to keep the run tidy, especially in the conditions," the skier, who carried the Thai flag at the opening ceremony, said of his first run.

"It was so terrible on that first left foot, even the top guys were putting their skis sideways when they first get into it. By the time bib 90 or whatever get into it, it was completely wavy and hard to keep the skis on the ground."

The Thai has been skiing recreationally since he was about two years old, but only for two to four weeks a year during vacations. He started racing at school and entered international competitions while at university.

While nowhere near the musician that Mae is, Sucharitakul is also useful with his hands, even if his amateur boxing career is currently on hold.

"I was an OK boxer. I lost my important fights but it was a good experience anyway," said the man who fought against Oxford at light-welterweight. (Editing by Ed Osmond)

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