The Olympic Games officially commence on Friday, but at least one Olympian has already scored an impressive title.
Hubertus von Hohenlohe has been named the “Most Interesting Olympian in the World” by NBC, who is airing the Games. It’s a well-deserved moniker, too.
The slalom skier – who is Mexico’s sole competitor in these Games – has represented Mexico in six Olympic Games. He’s also a 55 year old German prince whose grandfather, Kaiser Franz II, was the last Holy Roman emperor. He is fluent in five languages, palled around with Andy Warhol, is the heir to an automobile fortune and will be the second-oldest winter Olympian in history when he hits the Sochi slopes in his mariachi-inspired uniform.
So, how did a descendant of the Emperor of Austria end up skiing under the Mexican flag? Both by birth and by choice.
“In the beginning, I remember that I was considering racing for Liechtenstein because I have a Liechtenstein passport,” von Hohenlohe told NBC. He also has an Italian mother and German citizenship, and he had established residency in Spain.
“In the end, it seemed ideal that I do it for a country where I could control my own moves,” said von Hohenlohe.
von Hohenlohe decided to ski for Mexico, where he was born, due to careful family machinations. “We always wanted to have one member of the family who was Mexican, von Hohenlohe explained. “So they chose that I was going to be born in Mexico with the intention of following in the family business there.” While he has yet to follow in the family auto business (his father introduced Volkswagen into the country), he is eligible to ski under the Mexican flag at the Games.
As a student in Austria, von Hohenlohe developed a passion for skiing, winning the university downhill championship there when he was 21, before embarking on racing the World Cup circuit. In 1981, the prince founded the one-man Mexican Ski Federation and has been skiing for his birth country ever since, as the country’s sole Winter Olympian.
“I hope Mexicans are proud to have someone at the Olympics and, through that, hopefully they get to know who I am,” he told NBC. The prince made his Olympic debut in 1984 in Sarajevo, finishing 38th in the downhill, a career-best.
Skiing isn’t his only pastime, though. He’s also an artist who befriended Andy Warhol at Studio 54, as well as a musician who has put out eight records so far, including this 2013 track “Higher Than Mars.”
Prince Hubertus, as he’s called, is also an accomplished photographer with gallery shows, commercial campaigns and a ski instructor calendar to his name.
His artistic side is evident in his skiing career, not only in the way he glides down the slopes, but in the outfits he wears. While this year he is competing in a mariachi-inspired suit, when he competed in the Vancouver Games, he wore a ski suit inspired by Mexican bandidos complete with fake pistols and bandoliers.
His fashion sense is just one way that the prince pays his respects to the country he skis for: I can understand how they would think that this rich prince bought himself into the Olympics so that he can show off his cool racing suits, or whatever, he told NBC. I am not hiding behind a pile of money to realize my dreams. I have Mexican roots.”
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