UPDATE: Poor Hubertus von Hohenlohe. The Men’s Slalom is now over and Hubie is officially listed as DNF (Did Not Finish) along with 40 other skiers. But giant slalom gold medalist Ted Ligety ended up with a DNF beside his name too, so it’s nothing to be ashamed of. “I’m a bit upset but it’s OK, I feel cool,” Hubie said later. “I gave my best, would have liked to make it down, but I’m OK with this. I did the difficult part and started going for it a little more and suddenly my skis went like this (crossed over) and I hooked one of the tips and crashed. I was nearly there.” As for the 2018 Olympics: “I think this is it. Unless I find some pill that makes me younger.” That’s entirely possible, Hubie. Entirely possible.
Mexico’s Olympic team consists of a German prince, a pop singer, a trendy photographer, a TV host, a wine maker, a playboy heir to the Fiat fortune, and a 55-year-old man in a mariachi ski suit. They’re all the same guy.
Meet His Serene Highness Prinz Hubertus Rudolph von Hohenlohe-Langenburg.
Sometimes he’s addressed as Prince Hubertus. More commonly, he goes by the handle Hubertus von Hohenlohe. That’s the name by which he’s known in Olympic circles.
But you can call him Hubie.
Or you can call him the Mexican Ski Federation.
He’s also been known, at various times in his life, as Andy Himalaya and the Royal Disaster.
You can definitely call him the flag bearer for the Mexican Olympic team at the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Games. In fact, you can call him the ENTIRE Mexican Olympic team at Sochi.
Hubie carries the Mexican flag in the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics. The rest of the Mexican team consists of an official of the Mexican Olympic Committee and Hubie’s “trainer” — one of his skiing pals along to provide, um, moral and technical support.
Hubertus von Hohenlohe is not, of course, the only one-person Olympic team competing at Sochi. There are, I believe, 18 countries represented at the 2014 Winter Games by just one athlete. Skier Elise Pellegrin is Malta’s lonesome Olympian, figure skater Michael Christian Martinez is the only Sochi participant from the Philippines, and cross-country skier Tucker Murphy was a singular figure when he marched into Fisht Olympic Stadium waving Bermuda’s flag and wearing (what else) bermuda shorts.
But Hubertus von Hohenlohe is definitely special. One of a kind.
You may have heard of Hubie before. He’s been around — and making news — for quite a while. The Sochi Games are his sixth Olympics, dating back to Sarajevo in 1984.
When Hubie, at age 55, bombs down the Men’s Slalom course at Sochi on Saturday, he will be the oldest skier to ever compete in the Olympics. Actually, he’ll just be setting the bar a little higher: Hubie has been the oldest Olympic skier since he competed in the Slalom and Giant Slalom events at Vancouver in 2010 at the tender age of 51.
He’s already the second-oldest Olympian of all time, right up there with Swedish curler Carl August Kronlund, who won a silver medal at age 58 in the very first Winter Olympics at Chamonix in 1924.
Von Hohenlohe plans to leave Kronlund with the title Oldest Olympian, however. Hubie says this will be his last Olympics … probably … maybe. But Hubie’s in darn good shape, doesn’t smoke, only sips a little champagne and he will have just turned 59 (outlasting Kronlund) when the XXIII Winter Games roll around in Pyeongchang in 2018. So maybe…
But if this is the end of the run, the prince plans to go out in style. He’ll be swooping down the mountain Saturday in a self-designed skin-tight ski suit that looks like a Mexican mariachi musician’s costume.
Hubertus von Hohelohe-Langenburg’s 2014 mariachi look (above) and the bandido ski suit he wore at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver — where Hubie finished 46th in the Men’s Slalom and 78th in the Giant Slalom — his ski suit sported a bandido motif with a six-shooter tucked in his belt and crossed bandoliers on his chest.
Hubie now concedes that outfit was probably over the top, given the current rep for violence and lawlessness that Mexico is trying desperately to overcome. He maintains the outfit was culturally inspired by the Mexican Revolution … but Hubie is not really one for introspection or lingering regrets, anyway.
Small wonder NBC Sports has dubbed him “the most interesting Olympian in the world.”
Now to be perfectly clear on this, Hubie is actually A prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, not THE Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. THE Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg is a guy named Philipp (one L, three Ps). But Hubie’s still certified, blue-blooded European nobility (on both sides of his parentage) and a direct descendant of Franz II, the last Holy Roman Emperor. His great-grandmother was Queen Victoria’s granddaughter and he’s related to the current Queen’s husband, Prince Philip (one L, two Ps), by marriage. If you want to know more than that, I suggest you look it up yourself or get a new hobby.
Hubie has never really spent much time at Schloss Langenburg, the family seat in Germany. (It remained safely on the western side of the Iron Curtain at the end of World War II but a lot of the family’s other lands in eastern Germany and Poland were confiscated by the Russians, a legal tangle that is still being unknotted.)
Hubie’s more a Spain-Austria-Leichtenstein kind of guy, anyway. In fact, I believe Hubertus von Hohenlohe has citizenship in all three of those countries.
Plus Mexico, of course, since Hubie was born there.
That’s how he came to be Mexico’s sole winter Olympian starting in 1984 in Sarajevo.
Little Hubertus was born in Mexico City on Feb. 2, 1959, while his father — that would be the dashing playboy Prince Alfonso Maximiliano Victorio Eugenio Alexandro María Pablo de la Santísima Trinidad y Todos los Santos zu Hohenlohe-Langenburg — was busy introducing the Volkswagen Beetle to Mexico.
Hubie’s parents — Prince Alfonso and his teenaged bride, Princess Ira
The von Hohenlohe-whatevers were definitely a car family since Hubie’s mother is the socialite-actress-fashionista Princess Ira von Fürstenberg, who also happens to be the daughter of Prince Tassilo zu Fürstenberg and his first wife, Clara Agnelli — who happens to be one of the heirs to the Fiat automotive fortune. Clara’s in her 90s now but still hale and hearty, so Princess Ira (who’s in her 70s and even more sprightly) and her son Prince Hubie (who, at 55, is obviously sportif enough to qualify for Olympic downhill skiing) will have to wait a while longer for the really big family money to reach them.
As Hubie told Britain’s Telegraph newspaper in an interview last month:
“Well, I have more properties than cash because I inherited quite a complicated situation where I didn’t inherit money. But I can’t complain; my careers are going well and my grandmother is heiress to Fiat, so if no one else blows it before then, I could be super rich one day.
“Now, my father really was a playboy. Totally. A ladies’ man, he dated Ava Gardner and Kim Novak. He had real effortless style, much more than me. There’s no one today who compares.”
That Telegraph interview, by the way, is the best thing I’ve come across about Hubertus von Hohenlohe. Here’s a link to the full article if you’re interested. Of course, I’ve got some stuff here about Hubie that you won’t find in The Telegraph, so … let’s continue, shall we?
Hubie, wearing his mariachi ski suit, with his pal, skiing great Alberto Tomba — La Bomba — who also happens to be the cousin of Hubie’s longtime “girlfriend” (or is she his wife? — he calls her both), the elegant Simona Gandolfi.
Hubertus von Hohenlohe (etc.) may have been born in Mexico and may be Mexico’s only winter Olympian, but he’s spent relatively little time there over the past half century.
His parents’ stormy marriage ended while Hubie was still a toddler, and before he was 10 Hubie was living mainly in Spain in the care of a nanny while his father developed the exclusive Marbella Club resort complex on Spain’s Costa del Sol.
To understand how out-of-the-ordinary Hubie’s family background is, consider this: His mother, the Fiat heiress-in-waiting, was only 15 years old when she got papal dispensation from Pius XII to marry the much-older (31) Prince Alfonso. Five years and two children later, Ira got another papal dispensation to divorce Alfonso and marry her next husband, Brazilian industrialist Francisco “Baby” Pignatari. Ira soon dumped Baby, embarked on quite a successful film career in frothy 1960s European comedies and thrillers, and dated Prince Ranier of Monaco for a while after his wife, Grace Kelly, died. Such is life if you’re a von Fürstenberg and/or a von Hohenlohe-Langenberg.
Ira von Fürstenberg posing for Vogue in 1969 (left) and attending a royal wedding in Monaco in 2011.
For schooling, Hubie was shipped off to Austria (where the family also has various estates and a palace in Vienna). Boarding school was a rather dismal experience for Hubie but it was in Austria that he discovered a passion for skiing and became very, very good at it.
By the time he was 21, Hubie had won Austria’s university downhill ski championship and was contemplating a career on the World Cup circuit, maybe even a shot at the Olympics.
When not studying philosophy or skiing, Hubie was also running the nightclub at his father’s swanky jet-setter Marbella Club and hanging out in New York with his chum Andy Warhol and his hipster entourage. I repeat, such is life …
Hubie made his World Cup debut in 1981 and the same year began bringing his Olympic dream to fruition.
As I said, Hubertus von Hohenlohe is a very, very good skier — much, much better than you or I could ever possibly be. But he was not one of the best downhill skiers in Austria or Germany or possibly even Spain. So he began looking further afield to create the circumstances in which his Olympic ambitions could be realized.
At first, Hubie considered skiing for Liechtenstein, where his family also has properties and where Hubie also has, coincidentally, citizenship. Liechtenstein does have an Olympic ski team. Unfortunately, from Hubie’s perspective, that also meant that the Liechtenstein ski team has coaches and managers and a training regimen and team discipline and all sorts of other things that simply did not coincide with Hubie’s temperment or approach to life.
Hubie then turned his attention to Mexico, the land of his birth and a country where skiing falls somewhere between hockey and curling in terms of sporting popularity. Did I mention that Mexico has never had either a hockey or curling team entered in the Olympics?
(Don’t get me wrong: Mexicans do ski – they just go elsewhere to do it. There are now a couple of very modest ski hills operating in Mexico — one is Monterreal in the Sierra Madre range near Monterrey — but nothing that would produce a competitive skier.)
Hubie hooked up with a real mariachi band in Mexico City last month when he flew in to show off his new Olympic ski outfit and pick up the official flag he carried in the opening ceremony at Sochi.
To get the ball rolling, Hubie founded the Mexican Ski Federation in 1981 and secured recognition of the Mexican Olympic Committee for his federation as a bona fide Olympic affiliate. Hubertus von Hohenlohe is, of course, the sole member of the Mexican Ski Federation.
Hubie then returned to Europe and qualified in enough World Cup events over the next few years to earn acceptance (on Mexico’s behalf, of course) at the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo.
And he did well. At least he did better than you might expect for a playboy prince who had to create his own ski federation to make it to the Olympics.
At Sarajevo, Hubie came 26th in the Men’s Slalom (top half of the field), 38th in Men’s Downhill, and 48th in the Giant Slalom.
That showing was the high point of Hubie’s Olympic career but he has since put on a good show at five others Winter Games.
At Calgary in 1988, he competed in the Slalom (30th), Super-G (42nd), Downhill ((43rd) and Giant Slalom (52nd).
At Albertville in 1992, it was the Combined (36th), Downhill (38th) and Super-G (70th).
Two years later (with the changeover in Winter Games scheduling), Hubie placed 48th in the Downhill event at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics.
And then came a rough spot. Hubertus von Hohenlohe and the Mexican Olympic Committee had a falling out — perhaps because of jealousy and pique on the part of Mexico’s Olympic bureaucrats, perhaps because of vanity and hubris on Hubie’s part.
In any event, the Mexican Olympic Committee refused to send a one-man team to the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano or to the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City or to the 2006 Games in Turin.
In that decade, Hubie maintained his presence in the ski world on the World Cup circuit and pursued a number of other interests outside alpine sports.
Cover self-portrait on the 1998 Hubertus record Shoppings Bags & Religion
As a pop singer (sometimes known as Andy Himalaya), Hubie has put out nine records over the years. Some of them have even been minor hits in Europe. It’s not the kind of music I particularly like, but it’s at least as good as a lot of stuff I hear on the radio. I guess. Judge for yourself: Here’s a link to a YouTube video of his 2013 song Higher Than Mars.
Hubie at the NYC release party for his 2008 album Urban Jungles
He’s just finished mixing a new single called Party Army which will be released soon after the Olympics. The music world waits with bated breath.
Along the way, Hubie became a successful photographer. He started out taking the cover art for his records which, in turn, led to a number of gallery shows of his personal work which, in turn, led to another career as a professional fashion and lifestyle photographer. Hubie also has his own line of photo calendars — voluptuous snow bunnies and hard-bodied ski instructors for the most part. And he’s preparing a photo book on the Bayern München soccer team.
A page from one of Hubie’s ski calendars
Oh yeah, and he hosts a regular travel-and-interview show on Austrian TV. And continues the successful vineyard venture his father began in Ronda, Spain.
Did I mention skiing? In his mid-50s now, he still competes in World Cup events. He picks and chooses his venues, but he shows up enough to qualify for Olympic consideration.
Hubie competes in a World Cup event in Wengen, Switzerland, in the run-up to the Sochi Olympics.
So when Hubie and the Mexican Olympic Committee healed their rift following the 2006 Turin Games, Hubie was ready, willing and able to carry Mexico’s flag again at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
At 51, Hubie was by far the oldest athlete competing at Vancouver but he still did well — for a (shall we say) mature man wearing a bandido-inspired ski suit. He placed 46th in the Slalom at Vancouver and 78th in the Giant Slalom. Not podium material, of course, but far younger and more desperate men placed lower in the standings than Hubertus von Hohenlohe.
And that brings us to the current Winter Games in Sochi.
Hampered by injury and outside commitments (and maybe even by the aging process), Hubie barely snuck into the Federation International de Ski ranking that qualified him for the Men’s Slalom competition at Sochi. But he did make it and, as I said before, that’s something neither you nor I (certainly not me and equally certainly not you if you’re reading this anywhere except in Sochi) could accomplish. So more power to Hubie.
When Hubie carves his way down the slalom course at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre on Saturday afternoon (Saturday morning on North American TV), he won’t be going for gold … but he almost certainly will not finish in last place either. He never has.
As Hubie told The Telegraph a couple of weeks ago, he already considers himself a winner:”I do think people like me are good for the Olympics, the ultimate big show, because every great show needs variety and colour and fun. Not everyone can win but everyone can be a winner.”