Say hello to Prince Hubertus von Hohenlohe, who at age 55 will be the second-oldest winter Olympian in history when he competes (in this mariachi-inspired uniform) in the slalom for Mexico. But there’s more to Hubertus than his flashy outfit. There’s a reason NBC has dubbed him “The most interesting Olympian in the world.”
First off, yes, he’s a prince. (Sort of. He’s descended from the royal family of a German principality that hasn’t existed for 208 years. But he still gets to call himself Prince Hubertus, which you absolutely would if you could.)
Second, he’s not particularly Mexican. According to him, he’s about one-eighth Mexican. He was born there, seemingly for the novelty:
“We always wanted to have one member of the family [who was] Mexican,” he says. “So they chose that I was going to be born in Mexico. That was the idea.”
He grew up in, lives in, and competes in Austria, but it’s naturally easier to qualify for the Olympics as the only half-decent winter Olympian in the country. And he’s been doing it for a while. These will be his sixth Games, dating all the way back to 1984. He’s never medaled, and isn’t expected to do so in the slalom at Sochi, but skiing is just another fun thing you do when you’re Prince Hubertus.
Von Hohenlohe is a pop star. Performing under the names Royal Disaster and Andy Himalaya, he has released eight albums.
Von Hohenlohe, who keeps a home in Cabo San Lucas, wanted to honor his Mexican heritage at these, likely his last Olympics. So he went as unsubtle as possible—a Mariachi costume. Having one of the best uniforms in Sochi “is a medal I need so urgently,” he says.
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) January 27, 2014
He’s known for his flamboyant outfits. One of his uniforms at the Vancouver games was a “desperado” racesuit, complete with pistols and bandoleros. He described his inspiration for it:
“Until I went to Mexico recently to make a documentary, I never realized what a beautiful, amazing, rich past and culture they have and what a proud people they are,” he said.
Which sounds kind of infantilizing! But at least von Hohenlohe is culturally curious, and if the Olympics can’t inspire us to learn about other nations’ cultures (Banditos! Mariachi!), what’s the point?
The one-man Mexican Ski Federation is the country’s first winter Olympian since an ill-fated 1928 bobsled team, and promises to be its sole entrant for the foreseeable future. Mexico could do a lot worse.