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Column 030314 Wall

Monday, March 3, 2014

Mexico's One Man Winter Olympics Team and Haute Style Leader

By Allan Wall

The 2014 Winter Olympics were held in Sochi, Russia from February 7th to the 23rd.

Russia won the 2014 Winter Olympics medal count with 33 medals (including 13 gold ones).  In second place was Norway, followed by Canada, the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Belarus, Austria and France in 10th place.  (Only 26 countries, out of 88 participating, won medals).

The Winter Olympics favor colder climate countries.  However, warmer countries do participate, though none has yet won a medal.

A famous example was the Jamaican bobsled team back in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, later portrayed in the Hollywood movie “Cool Runnings.”  In order to add some conflict, “Cool Runnings” showed the Jamaican bobsledders being ridiculed by other competitors, especially East Germans.  In reality they were treated well by other Olympians.

Historically, Mexico’s first participation in a Winter Olympics was in the 1928 Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland.  Mexico sent a five-man bobsled team.  After that, Mexico did not participate again until the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo.

This year, in 2014, Mexico sent a team to the Winter Olympics.  It was a one-man team, composed of the flamboyant Mexican-born European aristocrat, Prince Hubertus von Hohenlohe-Langenburg.

At 55, Von Hohenlohe was also the oldest competitor at the games.  (But not the oldest winter Olympian in history. That was 58-year old Swede Carl August Kronlund, who competed in the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix.)
And while Hubertus didn’t win a medal, the genial competitor proudly represented Mexico -- competing in a mariachi ski suit (see here).

Hubertus von Hohenlohe was born in Mexico City in 1959.  His parents were both from transnational aristocratic-background families.  His father was Madrid-born Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, descended from the royal family of a German principality and the son of the daughter of a Mexican diplomat. 

Hubertus’ mother was Italian-born Princess Ira von Furstenberg.  The Furstenberg family was an old German aristocratic house, but she also had some American ancestry.

Hubertus was born in Mexico, where the couple resided when Alfonso was a Volkswagen executive running a factory in Mexico City.

As a young boy, Hubertus moved to Europe and lived in Spain, Italy and Austria where he was raised, mostly in Austria. Hohenlohe currently lives in Liechtenstein, a small country between Switzerland and Austria, though he spends a few weeks annually in Mexico.

Hubertus von Hohenlohe fits the profile of an old-time European aristocrat. Possessing several nationalities and speaking five languages, he engages in various business pursuits, including careers in photography and a singing career under the names “Andy Himalaya” and “Royal Disaster” (latest single “Higher than Mars”; you can access Hubertus’ website here).

Here is the aristocrat’s somewhat tortured, but amusing, explanation of his heritage: "I feel very Latin in a way, and Spanish. The Spanish were the ones who came to Mexico in the end, so I do feel Mexican. Naturally I have more ties to Spain, but I'm more of a Latin person. Although our name is very German, and we're a German aristocratic family, we really grew up in more of a Mediterranean way. My look is not very German. People think I'm from Argentina, or, I don't know, Italy. But they don't think I'm from Germany and Austria."

Hohenlohe has competed for Mexico in six Winter Olympics: at Sarajevo in 1984, Calgary in 1988, Albertville in France in 1992, 1994 in Lillehammer, 2010 in Vancouver, and 2014 in Sochi.  (In 1984, 1994, 2010 and 2014, Hohenlohe was a one-man team.)  In 2010 at Vancouver, Hubertus wore a desperado-style suit, with gun belt, pistol and ammo belts.

Hubertus von Hohenlohe attracted a lot of media attention this year.  And, on the second to last day of the 2014 Games he competed in the slalom event. One of his skis came loose and threw him down.  Always cognizant of his audience, however, Hubertus waved to them, made his way to the finish area and posed for photographers.

While he plans to compete in 2015 in Colorado, this is probably his last Winter Olympics.  "I think this is it,” he quipped, “unless I find some pills that make me younger.”

Thus ends the Olympic career of a European aristocrat who was proud to ski for Mexico.

In six Winter Olympics Hubertus von Hohenlohe never won a medal, but in an interview he summed up his sporting philosophy thusly: “If you cannot win, then at least be stylish.”

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Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico for many years.  His website is located at http://www.allanwall.info.

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