The Edge
1:31 am
Thu January 30, 2014

'Mariachi Olympic Prince' Takes Glamour To Sochi Ski Slopes

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 6:38 am

In Sochi, Russia, Hubertus Von Hohenlohe will compete in his sixth Winter Olympics. The 55-year-old downhill skier and German prince won't be skiing under the flag of his royal heritage, however. He'll be with the team of his birthplace, Mexico.

In honor of his Querido Mexico (beloved homeland), Hohenlohe says he will race down the Russian slopes decked out in a state-of-the-art mariachi ski suit.

Mexico's Olympic Committee gave him a proper sendoff Wednesday, full of pomp, ceremony and lots of trumpets — but with a much more solemn beat than the self-proclaimed Mariachi Olympic Prince usually enjoys.

Hohenlohe was born in Mexico. He spent his first four years here before his parents moved him to Europe. He learned to ski in Austria, which he says saved him from the tedium of boarding school. But he says he never forgot his homeland, and came back in the 1980s to launch the Mexican Ski Federation.

Membership is quite low in this mainly temperate country. Add on the high cost of the sport, and it's no surprise Hohenlohe is soloing it in Sochi.

"Lonely, lonely. It's going to be lonely out there," he says.

A photographer, documentarian and one of the oldest athletes to be competing in the Winter Olympics, Hohenlohe says he doesn't expect to win any medals. He only qualified for one race. But he does hope people will notice his flair for fashion.

"It's a big stage, and you need to wear something special on stage. I mean, I could also come with a T-shirt and jeans," he says.

His skin-tight suit is anything but. It sports a black bolero jacket over a ruffly white tuxedo shirt, a bright red tie and thick matching cummerbund.

Italian designer Alex Jorio of Kappa sports apparel says this isn't the first ski suit he's made for Hohenlohe. In the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Jorio made him a custom Mexican desperado suit, complete with bandolier.

"He's an artist and he [pretends] to push us in a difficult way," Jorio says.

Hohenlohe enjoys pushing the envelope. He says he wants to have fun. After all, being an Olympian isn't as exciting as it looks.

"Training in the gym and sweating and running and sleeping in bad hotels in Slovenia and eating fast food in Norway is not that glamorous," he says. "At least the suit should be glamorous."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

If you watch the Sochi Winter Olympics, you will be able to spot Hubertus Von Hohenlohe. He's the skier racing down the Russian slopes in a distinctive suit. It's form-fitting like his skiing competitors, but a good deal fancier than some. In fact, the suit is decorated as if it were a Mariachi outfit, with artwork suggesting ruffles and a cut-away coat. He's part of Mexico's Olympic team, a descendent of German nobility whose ancestors came to North America.

NPR's Carrie Kahn tells us more.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Hohenlohe says he loves Mexico and Mariachi music.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARIACHI MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing in Spanish)

KAHN: And as Mexico's sole athlete going to Sochi, the national Olympic Committee loves him too. They gave him a proper send off yesterday - full of pomp, ceremony and lots of trumpets; but in way, more solemn beat than the self proclaimed Mariachi prince usually enjoys.

(SOUNDBITE OF NATIONAL ANTHEM OF MEXICO)

KAHN: Hohenlohe was born in Mexico. He spent his first four years here before his parents moved him to Europe. He learned to ski in Austria, which he says saved him from the tedium of boarding school. But he says he never forgot his homeland, and came back in the 1980s to launch the Mexican Ski Federation. Membership, as you probably guessed, is quite low in this mainly temperate country; add on the high cost of the sport and it's no surprise Hohenlohe is soloing it in Sochi.

HUBERTUS VON HOHENLOHE: Lonely. Lonely. It's going to be lonely out there.

KAHN: A photographer, documentarian and one of the oldest, at 55, to be competing in the Winter Olympics, Hohenlohe says he doesn't expect to win any medals. He only qualified for one race. But he does hope people will notice his flare for fashion.

HOHENLOHE: It's a big stage and you need to wear something special on stage. I mean I could also come with just T-shirt and jeans.

KAHN: His skin tight suit is anything but. It sports a drawing of a black bolero jacket, complete with a ruffley(ph) white tuxedo shirt, a bright red tie and thick matching cummerbund.

ALEX JORIO: And also the trousers are very skinny.

KAHN: Italian designer Alex Jorio, of Kappa sports apparel, says this isn't the first ski suit he's made for Hohenlohe. In the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Jorio made him a custom Mexican desperado suit, complete with bandolier.

JORIO: He's an artist and he pretend to push us in a difficult way.

(LAUGHTER)

KAHN: For his part, Hohenlohe enjoys pushing the envelope. He says he wants to have fun. After all, being an Olympian isn't as exciting as it looks.

HOHENLOHE: Training enough, you know, in the gym and sweating and running and, you know, sleeping in bad hotels in Slovenia and eating fast food in Norway, is not that glamorous. At least the suit should be glamorous.

KAHN: And fitting for, as he likes to call himself, the Mariachi Olympic Prince.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARIACHI MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing in Spanish)

KAHN: Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARIACHI MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing in Spanish)

INSKEEP: Hard to top that but let's try. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.