NEW YORK – The German prince who skis for Mexico has a noble ambition in Sochi: Become king of the hill.
Not so much with his finish in the slalom — he has no illusions of winning — but rather through his fashion statement.
Hubertus Von Hohenlohe, who turns 55 on Sunday, wants to stand out on the slopes in his flamboyant mariachi racing suit.
A fitting outfit for a vibrant character. Born in Mexico City, Von Hohenlohe has royal lineage through his family’s ties with a former principality in Germany. He’s also a singer who’s released several albums, photographer whose work has been displayed in galleries and, oh yeah, a soon-to-be six-time Olympian.
That’s right, six appearances, beginning with his debut at the 1984 Sarajevo Games. Von Hohenlohe counts Austria great Franz Klammer as a friend, Bode Miller as an inspiration — “He’s a rebel and lives by his own rules,” the prince explained — and said this new generation of skiers keeps him young.
“I have had an interesting life,” Von Hohenlohe said.
Indeed. No wonder he’s referred to as the “most interesting Olympian,” a take on the commercial featuring the “most interesting man in the world” character.
“The fact that I have a span of 30 years where I’ve competed at the Olympics is quite special,” he said in a phone interview from his hotel room in Mexico City.
Von Hohenlohe is set to become the second-oldest male competitor at a Winter Games when he races in the slalom on Feb. 22, according to Olympic historian Bill Mallon. The honor of oldest belongs to Carl August Kronlund, a Swedish curler who was 58 when he captured a silver medal at the 1924 Games.
That’s a distinction Von Hohenlohe really doesn’t want, which is why Sochi will be his last Olympics.
Then again, he said he was retiring after Vancouver, too.
“Maybe I’ll try curling and go to a couple more?” said Von Hohenlohe, whose grandmother has Mexican ancestry.
In Vancouver four years ago, Von Hohenlohe wore a ski suit that featured a picture of a gun in a holster. He also wore others that tried to promote recycling efforts in Mexico.
This mariachi theme, though, takes the prize.
“It’s an appropriate suit for someone who’s not as explosive as the young ones, but has to go down stylish,” said Von Hohenlohe, who founded the Mexican Ski Federation in the early ’80s.
The charismatic Von Hohenlohe moved to Spain as a kid and then was sent to school in Austria, which he didn’t particularly like.
“Dark, depressing, strict and boring,” he said. “About the only thing that lit up my life was watching ski racing.”
Von Hohenlohe will be in Sochi to add to a streak that started 30 years ago in Sarajevo when he competed as Hubertus von Furstenberg-von Hohenlohe. He finished 38th in the downhill, 48th in the giant slalom and 26th in the slalom, which remains his best-ever Olympic showing.
He’s not the only royal member of his family to compete in the Olympics, either. His uncle, Max, also a prince, competed in the downhill for Liechtenstein at the ’56 Olympics.
“When I walk into Sochi with the flag, I’ll be crying, thinking about all the emotion it took to get here,” Von Hohenlohe said. “It shows you a life has so much to it.”