#WISPchat: Vanessa-Mae in the Olympics – pipedreamers’ triumph or defeat for women’s sport?

#WISPchat: Vanessa-Mae in the Olympics – pipedreamers’ triumph or defeat for women’s sport? Vanessa-Mae in London in 2004

Scroll down to see the chat in full - featuring a few special guests!


Since classical violinist Vanessa-Mae finished last at the Winter Olympics' women’s giant slalom on Tuesday, media commentary has been split over whether her completing the alpine skiing course in 67th place was a triumph for pipedreamers the world over – or a humiliating blow for the struggling cause of women’s sport.

Robin Scott-Elliott, The Independent’s Olympic Correspondent, falls neatly into the second camp, calling it ‘a giant leap for Vanessa-Mae and a small step back for the cause of women’s sport.’ He argues that female sporting events have been fighting for ‘long overdue better – and more respectful – coverage’, and that Vanessa-Mae’s slow, careful descent ‘was not designed to push the cause’.

Over in the Telegraph, Ian Chadband accused her of being ‘a genuine, multi-millionaire superstar using the Games as her playground’. He wasn’t the only journalist who pointed out that she applied lipstick before talking to the press.

Meanwhile, in the Guardian, Natalie Haynes praised Vanessa-Mae for ‘taking on an impossible challenge’ at the expense of a bit of dignity. She competed in a difficult sport, without taking a place from a more experience Olympian – there were no other female Thai skiers competing. Haynes was heartwarmed by Vanessa-Mae’s assertion: ‘I nearly crashed three times, but I made it down and that was the main thing.’

As part of ambition month, we’ve decided to bring the debate to #WISPchat. Does an inexperienced contender who’s in it for the challenge add to the disturbing mockery and lack of respect for women’s sporting events? Or is it a hopeful, positive message to see someone attempting a task at which they’re bound to fail, giving it their best shot and being positive about the experience as Vanessa-Mae was?: ‘If you don’t take risks, what’s the point? You have to enjoy life!’

Can women in sport ever win? Are they either too masculine and too ugly – as testified by the abuse hurled at Olympic gymnast Beth Tweddle – or too feminine, too frivolous and an affront to the ‘serious’ nature of sport, a field dominated by men?

If this has got you thinking, bring your opinions to #WISPchat, Friday at 2pm on Twitter. Don’t forget to use and follow the hashtag to keep up with everyone’s eureka moments!

And here's what happened (including a few guest appearances from Olympians...!)

Thanks for joining - and see you all next week for the final ambition #WISPchat.


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