Age difference of thirty-five years between oldest and youngest Alpine skiers

01 March 2010 08:23

The oldest athlete competing in Alpine Skiing at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games was 51-year old Hubertus Von Hohenlohe, while the 16-year-old Manfred Oettl Reyes of Peru was among the youngest Olympic participants.

The aristocrat Von Hohenlohe, who was born in Mexico City but now resides in Austria, is a descendant of German royalty, son of Prince Alfonso Hohenlohe and Princess Ira Fürstenberg. The flamboyant German skier, probably skied his last Olympic race Saturday as he is feeling his age these days, being around all the young kids.

Peru's Manfred Oettl Reyes, whose older sister Ornella also competed in Alpine Skiing at the Vancouver Olympics, raced in the men's giant slalom and slalom at Whistler Mountain. Born in Munich, Germany, Oettl Reyes has a German father and Peruvian mother. He changed allegiances from Germany to Peru in June 2009. He is thirty-five years younger than Von Hohenlohe and was barely a year old when the prince took part in the 1994 Lillehammer Games.

An Italian was crowned king in the men's slalom on Saturday, February 27, where Von Hohenlohe made his royal exit. For the 2014 Sochi Games, the aristocrat may take up curling and possibly run his own team as skip Von Hohenlohe. His age certainly won't slow him down. The lesson is that you can do much more than you think you can," Von Hohenlohe said.

The prince, who finished in 46th place in slalom, 28.46 seconds behind Giuliano Razzoli, considers himself also a photographer, businessman and pop singer. His official title is Prince Hubertus of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, otherwise known as "Andy Himalaya" and "Royal Disaster. He grew up in Europe and only stayed in Mexiko a few weeks every year. He usually split his time between Spain and Austria.

Mexico's lone Winter Olympian Von Hohenlohe loves the spotlight and was wearing two different "recyclable" suits for the slalom Saturday. The second suit consisted of bright shades of yellow and red. For the giant slalom earlier in the week he wore a suit with a picture of a gun in a holster, a design he was quite proud of.

Though athletes are required to be citizens of the countries they're competing for, that definition of "citizen" varies from one country to the next and often the connection between the athletes and the countries they represent is sometimes tenuous.

Manfred Oettl Reyes and his younger sister Ornella were last minute additions to the Olympic roster for Peru. They both met the minimum time qualifications for participation, but that participation was questioned as neither had taken part in a World Championship prior to the Olympics. Also their participation on behalf of Peru was questioned by some, as they were not only born in Germany but also live there and are of Peruvian descent on only one side of their family. However, the practice of smaller countries sending athletes who are technically citizens of those countries but who reside elsewhere to participate in the Olympics is not uncommon.

With Mexico-born prince Von Hohenlohe things are a bit different. He has ties to the country he is representing as his grandmother is half-Mexican while his father was running a Volkswagen plant there. When he was four, the prince left Mexico for Spain. He went to schools in Austria, where he picked up skiing.

Since he was born in Mexico, von Hohenlohe was able to compete for that country and made his Olympic debut in 1984. This was his fifth Olympics for Mexico, but only the first since 1994. Although he qualified for the Torino Olympics in 2006, he was controversially excluded from competition by his own national association because no other Mexican athletes had qualified for the Games. This year, Mexico decided to support his next-to-nothing shot at a medal in the slalom and giant slalom races.

At the age of 51, Von Hohenlohe somehow met the Olympic qualifying standards. For him it is infinitely easier to compete as an athlete for Mexico where no one skis, than for Austria, where the sport is a national obsession. The rich heir is using his opportunities and openings to his favor, but not in an abusive way, as he is skiing for a poor country like Mexico to reach the Olympics. However, Von Hohenlohe also points out that additional athletic exposure can work in the country's favor. "I've also created a lot of publicity in European countries for Mexico," he says. It's give and take."