SOCHI, Russia — The unusual Olympic story isn’t so unusual anymore.
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 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. (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:
MEXICAN SKI JUMPER: Watch the ski jumping 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.
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 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.
MIAMI SPEEDSKATER: 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.
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 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.