Sun, Feb 09, 2014 - Page 19 News List

Oldest competitor goes for boldest outfit

AFP, ROSA KHUTOR, Russia

Mexico’s flag bearer, alpine skier Hubertus von Hohenlohe, right, leads his national delegation during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on Friday in Sochi, Russia.

Photo: AFP

Mexico’s Hubertus von Hohenlohe is the oldest competitor at the Sochi Olympics, but the 55-year-old will likely have the boldest outfit — a skin-tight mariachi-inspired ski racing suit.

Having made his debut at the 1994 Sarajevo Games, Hubertus is to take to the Rosa Khutor slopes resplendent in a shiny black polyester suit featuring inlaid silver embroidery, red neck bow and cummerbund, in line with the outfit donned by traditional Mexican folk groups.

However, it is highly unlikely that he will be allowed to don a mariachi-fitting sombrero, international rules stipulating that ski racers wear a proper helmet for safety reasons.

“We have a unique style, with a very cool costume. I think Mexico will be very proud of itself,” said Hubertus, born in Mexico City in 1959 to a Volkswagen executive father, Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe, and Princess Ira von Fuerstenberg.

He spent his life growing up in the glitzy Spanish coastal resort of Marbella, Italy and Austria, honing for himself a multilingual peripatetic career that has included stints as a singer, photographer and TV presenter, while also preparing for his sixth Olympic appearance.

Von Hohenlohe said in an interview that he had turned his hand to design for Sochi.

“I think it’s much better to let people know we exist,” he said, having founded the Mexican ski federation in 1981 and starting competing on the World Cup circuit three years later at the age of 21.

“We have put a great effort in to be here and clearly it’s a chance to show that Mexico is a wonderful country,” he added.

“You can send hidden or open messages and I thought up the idea of designing ski suits. Four years ago I got a gunslinger costume for Vancouver. This year I plumped for a design that is a little more Mexican. It is very cool and stylish,” he added.

Von Hohenlohe is the second-oldest competitor in Winter Olympics history after Swedish curler Carl August Kronlund, who was 58 when he took part in the 1925 Games in Chamonix.

“What’s nice is that we are a generation that is not getting older quicker, we have a longer-lasting youth,” said Von Hohenlohe, who describes himself as a “Renaissance man” capable of crossing continents and embracing different languages, cultures and experiences.

“By taking part I want to give people the benefits of believing in themselves and not stopping practicing sports as early as other generations did, to prolong our lives and our efforts a little more than they were before us,” he added.

However, Von Hohenlohe said that he was approaching his sixth Olympic Games with perhaps a different mindset from the likes of Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal or the US’ Bode Miller, who is in his fifth Winter Games.

“My expectations are different from those of a person who can win,” the Vienna-based Mexican said.

“What I want to do is my best, enjoy the moment and act as an inspiration for the many people that perhaps share your dreams, but have neither the strength nor inspiration to achieve them. The beauty of being an Olympian or someone who is privileged enough to race is that you can awaken dreams in others,” Von Hohenlohe said.

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