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Five Winter Olympic oddities to see in Sochi

Hubertus von Hohenlohe shows of his eyecatching skin-tight mariachi costume. Picture AP

Hubertus von Hohenlohe shows of his eyecatching skin-tight mariachi costume. Picture AP

  • by TIM REYNOLDS
 

THE unusual Olympic story isn’t so unusual anymore.

Competitors such as the infamous Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards – the British less-than-high-flyer who became a respectable ski jumper from auspicious beginnings – and the Jamaican bobsled team who raced at Calgary in 1988 remain part of Olympic lore, and that won’t change anytime soon. Plus, some of those memories will be stoked again when the Jamaican two-man sled competes at these Sochi Games.

The simple, most basic premise of the Olympics is to bring the athletes of the world together. And, in Sochi, those athletes are truly coming from all parts of the world – whether their homeland is a winter wonderland or not. So here’s a look at five of the eyebrow-raising story lines about these Olympics:

MEXICAN ALPINE SKIER

Watch the alpine skiing competition, and you’ll know who the guy with no chance of winning is when you see him. Meet Hubertus von Hohenlohe, who was born in Mexico City, grew up in Austria and reportedly descends from German royalty. He’ll have two claims to fame at the Sochi Olympics. He’s 55 years old, and he’ll be competing in a skin-tight mariachi costume. If he doesn’t finish last, it’ll be a massive surprise. Fortunately, he hasn’t quit his day jobs as a businessman and photographer.

INDIAN LUGER

Shiva Keshavan’s home nation has no luge track. That hasn’t stopped him from making the Olympics again and again. Keshavan will compete in the men’s competition that starts on Saturday and, for a welcome change, he’s sliding on ice. How does he train in India? His nation has plenty of hills, so he’s got a specially made luge sled with wheels and he slides down Himalayan slopes. Oh, he does that on roads. And while dodging cars. That’s dedication.

MIAMI SPEEDSKATER

There are hotbeds of speedskating in the United States, and apparently, Miami is one of them. Jennifer Rodriguez has represented Miami in the Olympic speedskating competition several times, and now Eddy Alvarez is adding his name to the list of South Floridians heading to the Winter Games. Alvarez is a Miami Heat fan, learned to skate on rollerblades along South Beach, and hails from a city where, if the temperature ever dips below 15 degrees, it tends to be the lead story on local newscasts.

SPANISH FIGURE SKATER

Javier Fernandez is no joke. He’s a popular pick to medal in figure skating in Sochi, and with good reason. Never mind that Spain isn’t exactly considered a place from which a Winter Olympic star would hail from, Fernandez has proven himself time and again against the best in the world. Spain has only two medals from the Winter Games, both in alpine skiing, a gold in 1972 and a bronze in 1992. If Fernandez delivers in Sochi, it would be enormous for his country.

CALIFORNIA IS TOPS

Finally, and while there certainly are parts of California where massive piles of snow can be found, consider this: There are more US Olympians this year from the Golden State (20) than any other in this nation. Colorado and Minnesota – with more traditional winter climates – each have 19 representatives wearing the red, white and blue in Sochi, according to the US Olympic Committee. And yes, many of them are from the warmer parts of California, too.

SCHEDULE

Today’s action in Sochi

(All times GMT)

FIGURE SKATING

2.30pm Team Men Short Program

5.10pm Team Pairs Short Program

FREESTYLE SKIING

2pm Ladies’ Moguls Qualification 1

SNOWBOARD

6am Men’s Slopestyle Qualification

12 noon Ladies’ Slopestyle Qualification

 

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