London: Maria Sharapova, the Russian world No 3 tennis player, had applied to the Florida supreme court to change her name to Maria ‘Sugarpova’ in order to promote her own line of sweets at the US Open. While she decided against it later, the news had attracted a certain level of comment on social media — and not all such comment has been positive.
Max Eisenbud, her agent, told ESPN that the idea had been dropped after some serious consideration. Still, at the very least, Sharapova who may also sport the red-lipped logo of her candy line while playing at Flushing Meadows is not the first sports star to use a name change for personal (as opposed to familial or spiritual) reasons. (Which means we’re not including Eldrick “Tiger” Woods or Cassius Clay-cum-Muhammad Ali in this round-up, or indeed Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr’s decision to become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Oh no.)
In no particular order, here are some more sports stars who changed their given syllables. Further examples are welcome in the comments section below and perhaps suggestions for other athletes who really should change their names? Naming no names, of course. Apart from Alex Rodriguez, obviously:
Rugby: Epi Taione
Rather less famous than Ochocinco and World Peace unless you live in Tonga, Taione was a fearsome flanker for Newcastle, Sale and Harlequins in England’s rugby premiership. After being picked to represent his island home at the 2007 World Cup in France, Taione came up with a novel way of addressing the team’s perennial funding problem in honour of the team’s sponsor, an Irish bookmaker, he would change his name to Paddy Power. Alas, the International Rugby Board is about as welcoming to anything deemed “ambush marketing” as the International Olympic Committee or Fifa Taione’s stunt was disallowed, and his teammates, who had planned to dye their hair green in support, had to think again.
Snooker: Jimmy White
Another star with a perfectly serviceable nickname “The Whirlwind”, for his exciting, fast-potting style in 2005 the snooker player nonetheless legally changed his name to James Brown. This, alas, had nothing to do with the Godfather of Soul White made the change to chime in with a sponsorship deal that saw the makers of HP Sauce, Britain’s favourite chip-enhancing condiment, sponsor the brown ball at the UK Masters. “With a bit of luck,” White said, “the name James Brown will be engraved on the Masters trophy at the end of next week.” It wasn’t. White also said that he might keep his new name for that year’s World Championship. He didn’t.
— Guardian News and Media Ltd