Sports

In Sochi, a pop star won first while a violinist finished last

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Credit: REUTERS/Leonhard Foege

Winner Slovenia's Tina Maze celebrates on podium during the flower ceremony after the women's alpine skiing giant slalom event during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center February 18, 2014.

In one race, a skier-turned pop singer and a violinist-turned athlete. One in first place and the other dead last. 

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

The small European country of Slovenia has already snatched up six medals at the Sochi 2014 Olympics, and two of them are due to Tina Maze, the 30-year-old skier, who competes in four different alpine events. She's also released a pop music single in the past year. 

Nathaniel Vinton, a reporter covering alpine skiing at Sochi for The New York Daily News, has spent a fair amount of time with the Maze, documenting her rise to success, and even visiting her home, small mining town on the border of Austria and Slovenia.

Her success in all events, he said, is rather surprising for the sport.

“It’s pretty unusual," Vinton says. "There’s only three or four athletes at any given time that can do that. It takes a long time to build up all of those skills and it really takes careful planning because you are going to races constantly and you’re not getting much time to train in different events.”

Earlier this season, Maze wasn't doing so well. She switched coaches back in December and coaxed a semi-retired coach who was working in television to train her to victory.

"(He) came in as a sort of emergency measure to get her back on track," Vinton says. "It’s not that he’s changing her technique in any dramatic way whatsoever. It’s more motivating her and helping her make the right decisions about what kind of training to do when and so forth.”

Also making headlines in the same race was the woman that finished last.

Vanessa Mae Vanakorn is known for being a world-class violinist. But, this year she's competing for Thailand at the Sochi Games.

The Daily News' Vinton was tracking her progress at the race in addition to Maze. 

“She looked brave considering where her skill level is," he said.

One big challenge for the athletes in Sochi this year is the ongoing problem with weather.

Maze and Vanakorn battled conditions less than ideal for their races including fog and rain.

"She finished dead last and it wasn’t an easy day," Vinton says. "I’d say (Vanakorn) looked pretty good, all things considered.”

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