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Odd Olympics: 6 Unlikely Competitors at the Sochi Games

prince von hohenlohe slaloms
Prince Hubertus von Hohenlohe competes in a men's slalom competition in Schladming, Austria in February 2013. The prince is planning on wearing a Mariachi-inspired uniform for his current Winter Olympic bid. (Image credit: <a href="">Pal Teravagimov</a> / <a href=""></a>)

Every Olympics has its share of behind-the-scenes drama, weird backstories and unlikely competitors. The Sochi Games are no exception. From the Jamaican bobsled team to the luger-turned-lingerie company, here are some of the most interesting stories from the 2014 Winter Games.

1. Paradise lost

With its tropical weather and snow-free terrain, Jamaica may not seem like an obvious country to field competitors in bobsled. But the Jamaican team, whose unlikely bid for the 1988 Olympic Games in Canada inspired the 1993 film "Cool Runnings," returns once again after failing to make the 2006 and 2010 Winter Games. At its pinnacle in 1994, the Jamaican bobsled team finished 14th of 29 competitors that year. Now, they've returned, hoping to best their 1994 finish. The team also funded part of their Olympic Bid, filling an $80,000 shortfall through the crowdfunding site Crowdtilt.  [In Photos: Exploring Wild Jamaica]

2. Stateless participants

Despite being the second-most populous country in the world, India could arguably be considered an underdog at these games. Though India has sent athletes to the Winter Games since 1964, the country of 1.2 billion people has garnered just 26 medals, all at the summer Olympics. The athletes participating this year overcame several hurdles, starting with an almost complete lack of institutional support from the country. For instance, luge competitor Shiva Keshavan lacked a personal trainer and built a luge in his garage because the country didn't have one and didn't supply the means for him to buy one.

Still, all these amazing athletes will walk into the Olympic stadium for the opening ceremony on Feb. 7 without a flag: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspended the body responsible for selecting Indian competitors, the Indian Olympic Association, for corruption charges — including appointing committee members who had pending criminal charges. The Indian organization didn't fix the problems in time for India's three athletes to walk in the opening ceremony or wear the country's insignia

3. South Pacific lingerie

The tiny, South Pacific Kingdom of Tonga is making its winter Olympic debut with the luger formerly known as Fuahea Semi. A rugby player for the island chain nation, Semi officially changed his name to Bruno Banani, which also happens to be the name of his sponsor, a German lingerie company. Though the IOC wasn't exactly happy with this marketing ploy, according to news reports, the committee could do nothing to prevent Banani from competing, as he had legally changed his name prior to the competition.

4. From hurdler to bobsledder

Track-and-field star Lolo Jones earned her Olympic stripes in 2008 and 2012 in the 60- and 100-meter hurdles. But after tripping in Beijing and placing out of the medals in London, this world champion is making another bid for gold — this time, on the U.S. bobsled team. Her running chops helped her earn a spot as the brakeman, the team member who pushes the bobsled at the beginning of the race. [Bobsled Physics]

5. Sports resurrection

Jones isn't the only bobsledder who made the leap from another sport. Former University of North Texas wide receiver Johnny Quinn has also earned a spot on the men's U.S. bobsled team. Quinn started bobsledding after a short career in football. After a disappointing stint in the National Football League in 2007 and 2008, he played for a bit for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and then was sidelined by a torn Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his knee.

6. German royal

One of the most unlikely competitors is alpine skier Hubertus von Hohenlohe, who is Mexico's sole representative in this year's winter games. The German prince has a half-Mexican grandmother and was born in Mexico, making him eligible to compete for the balmy country, despite spending most of his time abroad. At age 54, von Hohenlohe may also be one of the oldest competitors at the games, having made his Olympic debut in 1984 in Sarajevo. When he's not crisscrossing the slopes, he's making business deals, taking photographs or playing in a rock band, with names such as "Andy Himalaya" and "Royal Disaster."

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Tia Ghose
Tia has interned at Science News,, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and has written for the Center for Investigative Reporting, Scientific American, and ScienceNow. She has a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California Santa Cruz.