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Winter Olympics: Mexico's one-man team Hubertus von Hohenlohe is sloping off in style aged 55

AT the vintage age of 55, Mexican skier Hubertus von Hohenlohe is limbering up for his sixth Winter Olympics - and he won't be difficult to spot.

Hubertus von Hohenlohe won't be flagging in his Olympics swansong   Photograph: EPA
Hubertus von Hohenlohe won't be flagging in his Olympics swansong Photograph: EPA

In the 30 years since he first competed at Sarajevo in 1984, von Hohenlohe has made a few concessions to age. To avoid worrying his mother, he has dropped downhill racing in favour of the more technical and less dangerous slalom.

His outfits, however, get steadily more outrageous. In Vancouver four years ago, he appeared as a pistolero; this time he will sport a specially designed black ski-suit imprinted with the white frills, red belt and necktie of a mariachi folk musician.

"I think people like me keep the Olympic spirit up," said von Hohenlohe. "It's cool to be still at it and to have kept youth a little longer than most people would probably try to do so."

The son of German aristocrats, von Hohenlohe was born in Mexico, where his father was building up the Volkswagen car business. He grew up speaking Spanish and German, and discovered skiing after moving to Austria as a child.

"The winters were grey, dark and long there, and my only kind of escape was to the mountains. When I saw ski races, I thought: this is what I have to do," he said.

With dual Mexican and Liechtenstein nationality, he lives in Europe, but is proud to represent the country of his birth. At Friday night's opening ceremony of the Sochi Games in Russia, he once again carried Mexico's flag - not surprisingly since he is their only representative.

While it can be "a little lonely" in a team of one, he says he enjoys good camaraderie with the other skiers, most of whom weren't born when he first took part in the Olympics.

He said: "Norway's Axel Svindal complains that I don't do downhill any more. But my mother doesn't want me to do it and they also made the qualification criteria so difficult that I can't really qualify. But it's cool."

Von Hohenlohe insists he's "no Olympic tourist" and will be competing hard through the twists and turns of the slalom, not just snowploughing down. He satisfied the qualifying criteria and over the years has achieved some respectable results, his best being 26th in 1984. He says a top-50 place would be a good result.

So what about that mariachi costume? Von Hohenlohe said: "We decided to do something very elegant and very folkloric, and I like music. So we thought mariachis would be the right ambassadors for a Mexican who likes to sing and who likes to ski and look good at night.

"It's worn with a sombrero when you sing. But the sombrero would be maybe a bit too hindering coming down the slalom gates."

Despite being one of the oldest Winter Olympians and a member of a select group to compete at six different Games, von Hohenlohe says he is not looking to go on and on in search of a place in the record books. So Sochi may be his swansong.

"I actually don't think I'm going to aim for the next one, otherwise my claim to fame will be to be the oldest Winter Olympian ever, and that's kind of embarrassing. This should be the last," he said.

"Unless some scientist uses me as a guinea pig to stay young for some time. Then I would accept the offer and try to see if it's possible to qualify next time also."

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