- Alpine Skiing
Hubertus von Hohenlohe: Most interesting Olympian in world
Looking for the Most Interesting Man in the World?
Put down that Dos Equis and grab a television remote. He will be coming through live during the Alpine skiing competition at the Sochi Olympics.
His name is Hubertus von Hohenlohe. He is a six-time Mexican Olympian, a world-class photographer, and a professional musician. He is fluent in five languages and an heir to an automobile fortune.
He is also a 55-year-old German prince.
Okay, but what is he doing competing against world-class athletes in the men’s slalom?
“Basically, I don’t really know,” von Hohenlohe said. “This dream kind of always expanded and now it’s become a test for nature, to see how far I can go. It’s always challenging and always interesting to kind of observe yourself and whether you can make it or not.”
Embedded owg_slideshow: Through the years: Hubertus von Hohenlohe
von Hohenlohe is the son of Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe, a businessman known for his promotion of the Spanish resorts of Marbella and Costa del Sol, and Princess Ira von Fürstenberg, a European socialite, actress and descendant of the Agnelli family, founders of Italian automaker Fiat and owners of the Juventus soccer club.
Although his roots would appear to be firmly planted in Europe, von Hohenlohe’s grandmother, Piedad, was a marquise, granddaughter of a Basque adventurer who had made a fortune in Mexico, and his father held the Volkswagen concession in Mexico, introducing the German-made car into the country.
“We always wanted to have one member of the family who was Mexican,” von Hohenlohe, who was born in Mexico City, explained. “So they chose that I was going to be born in Mexico with the intention of following in the family business there.”
When he was four, however, von Hohenlohe and his family left Mexico and moved to Spain where his father’s Marbella Club had become the premier destination for the rich and famous. He started skiing in Sierra Nevada, a pursuit he continued once he went away to schools in Austria. He won the university downhill championship there when he was 21 and a year later embarked on racing the World Cup circuit.
The question was under which flag would von Hohenlohe compete? He was born in Mexico, had established Spanish residency, had an Italian-born mother, and citizenship in Austria and Liechtenstein.
“In the beginning, I remember that I was considering racing for Liechtenstein because I have a Liechtenstein passport,” von Hohenlohe said. “In the end, it seemed ideal that I do it for a country where I could control my own moves.”
Embedded owg_slideshow: Hubertus von Hohenlohe at the Olympics
In 1981, the prince founded his own one-man kingdom, the Mexican Ski Federation. But his ambition was never to rule the slopes, like his Alpine hero Franz Klammer.
“I didn’t want to do skiing in a full, professional way,” he said. “But more as an amateur, gentleman’s racing sort of thing.”
Since making his Olympic debut in 1984 in Sarajevo, where he finished a career-best 38th in the downhill, skiing has remained a large part of von Hohenlohe’s life, but shares priority with his other day jobs.
After all, just because one is royalty, it doesn’t make them immune from civilian work. Franz Joseph Habsburg wasn’t just Emperor of Austria, he was also a skilled bookbinder, and his grandfather, Kaiser Franz II, was a gardener on top of being the last Holy Roman emperor.
von Hohenlohe is a musician and a photographer.
He began making music in the 1980s, putting out eight records under the aliases Andy Himalaya and Royal Disaster.
His inspiration to become a pop artist was getting to know Andy Warhol.
“My brother worked in New York and I met him at Studio 54 with Carmen d’Alessio, who was the PR director there,” von Hohenlohe said. “He always thought that because we are royal and princes from Europe that we are so glamorous and that my mother was amazingly glamorous. We remained friends and I met him a number of times here in Europe. He was always very funky and cool. That inspired me.”
von Hohenlohe’s photography career, which now includes a high-profile ski instructors calendar – Julia Mancuso graced the cover in 2012 – and work for companies like Red Bull and European chocolatier Milka, actually began as an off-shoot of his music.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Alpine photo shoot: Prince and his subjects
“As a coincidence, I did a record cover where I shot myself in a mirror,” he said. “A curator came and said, ‘I really like these photos. Do you have any more of them?’ And I had like 20 or 25 photos of that style. From then, I started this career. It was very spontaneous and unintended. I tried much harder with music but was much more successful with photography.”
Von Hohenlohe’s artistic side bleeds into his skiing, where he has become as much of a curiosity for his unusual background as for his colorful racing outfits. In Vancouver, he wore a bandido-esque uniform, complete with fake pistols and bandoleers, and another environmentally-conscious-themed suit urging people to recycle.
The man has many sides, but one he believes is a total misrepresentation is that he has used his wealth and status to toy around ski resorts in Europe while using a poor country, to which he has a tenuous connection, to attract personal attention at the Olympics.
“I can understand how they would think that this rich prince bought himself into the Olympics so that he can show off his cool racing suits, or whatever,” he said. “I am not hiding behind a pile of money to realize my dreams. I have Mexican roots.
“Skiing is a sport where you really have to do it yourself. You have to stand on those two wooden things and come down the mountain and do the turns and do the work. It’s hard to qualify. I hope Mexicans are proud to have someone at the Olympics and, through that hopefully they get to know who I am.”
The most interesting Olympian in the world.