The Associated Press - Wednesday Feb. 5, 2014 12:13 ET

5 unique Sochi athletes to watch

Olympians people will be talking about

  • shiva-keshava-ap-81195
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    Luger Shiva Keshavan, seen competing at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, would be competing in his fifth Winter Games if the Indian Olympic Federation adheres to the IOC’s demand of banning tainted officials. (Ricardo Mazalan/Associated Press)

  • Skier Hubertus Von Hohenlohe
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    Mexican skier Hubertus Von Hohenlohe isn't expected to medal, but the 55-year-old will turn heads in his mariachi-inspired ski suit

  • Speed skater Eddy Alvarez
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    U.S. short track speed skater Eddy Alvarez (right) learned to ice skate by rollerblading on South Beach. (Alexander Demianchuk/Reuters)

  • Skater Javier Fernandez
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    Javier Fernandez of Spain is a legitimate medal contender in men's figure skating. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

  • Figure skater Polina Edmunds
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    Figure skater Polina Edmunds is one of 20 winter Olympians from California, which surprisingly has more than any other state. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

  • Jamaican bobsled team
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    If it gets funding, Jamaica could be sending a two-man bobsled squad to the Sochi Olympics. (Peter Andrews/Reuters)

  • shiva-keshava-ap-81195
  • Skier Hubertus Von Hohenlohe
  • Speed skater Eddy Alvarez
  • Skater Javier Fernandez
  • Figure skater Polina Edmunds
  • Jamaican bobsled team

Competitors like Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards — the British less-than-high-flyer who became a respectable ski jumper from auspicious beginnings — and the Jamaican bobsled team that raced at Calgary in 1988 remain part of Olympic lore, and that won't change any time 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. (It bears noting that Sochi itself isn't exactly a snowy paradise, as evidenced by the palm trees all around the city.)

So here's a look at five of the eye-raising story lines about these Olympics:


Watch the Alpine skiing competition, and you'll know who the guy with no chance of winning 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 skintight 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.


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 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 Himalyan slopes. Oh, he does that on roads. And while dodging cars. That's Olympic dedication.


There's hotbeds of speedskating in the U.S., and apparently, Miami is one of them. Jennifer Rodriguez 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 60 degrees it tends to be the lead story on local newscasts.


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.


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

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