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Explained: As Lewis Hamilton adds mother’s surname, a look at other sports greats who changed their name, and why

Lewis Hamilton has said he will soon include his mother’s original surname, ‘Larbalestier’, to his name. Why is he changing his name? Who are other famous sports stars who have changed their names?

Written by Sayak Dutta , Edited by Explained Desk | Kolkata |
Updated: March 16, 2022 8:32:52 am
Lewis Hamilton poses with his mother Carmen Lockhart (formerly Larbalestier) for a photo after he was made a Knight Bachelor by Britain's Charles, Prince of Wales, during an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle in Windsor, Britain, December 15, 2021. (Reuters)

Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton has said he will soon include his mother’s original surname, ‘Larbalestier’, to his name. He, however, hasn’t said what the order of his full name would be.

Why is Lewis Hamilton changing his name?

Hamilton’s parents Anthony and Carman had separated when Hamilton was two years old. “I don’t really fully understand the whole idea that when people get married the woman loses her name and I really want my mum’s name to continue with the Hamilton name,” Hamilton said while preparing for the Bahrain Grand Prix, the season opener.

“I am really proud of my family’s name. My mum’s name is Larbalestier and I am just about to put that in my name,” he added.

Parents’ influence on Hamilton’s life

Hamilton was born to Anthony Hamilton and Carmen Larbalestier on January 7, 1985 in England’s Hertfordshire. His father is Black and of Grenadian descent while his mother is British and from Birmingham.

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After his parents separated, he lived with his mother and older half-sisters until he was 12.

According to The Sun, Hamilton’s father helped him break into the world of go-karting, where he spent seven years working his way from the Rye House Kart Circuit in Hertfordshire to Formula Super A stardom. Anthony was Lewis’s manager throughout his racing career till 2010, after which he was sacked. However, the father and son are still close.

His father was an ever-present figure in almost every race of Lewis’ career in the early days. His mother has always been there for the big moments and is said to share an excellent relationship with her son.

Hamilton was photographed with his mother after receiving his Knighthood last year.

According to the Sun, Lewis’ mother had said, “Lewis was the best thing to come out of my marriage. (The split) didn’t damage him. He is probably better for it than if we had stuck together in an unhappy marriage.”

Other famous sports stars who changed their names

Fast bowler Bob Willis, born Robert George Willis, but was influenced by the famous musician Bob Dylan. He added the Dylan surname to his official name and was popularly known as ‘Bob’ Willis.

While Hamilton and Willis only added a surname, there are a number of super stars who have changed their complete names for various reasons. Boxing great Muhammad Ali’s birth name was Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. which he changed in 1964.

During a press conference after defeating Sonny Liston, the reigning heavyweight champion Ali first announced that his name would be Cassius X after his mentor and human rights activist Malcolm X.

A month after defeating Liston, he said he was converting to Islam. Regarding the name Cassius Clay, Ali told the world, “Cassius Clay is a slave name. I didn’t choose it and I don’t want it. I am Muhammad Ali, a free name — it means beloved of God, and I insist people use it when people speak to me.”

American basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. and changed his name in 1968 when he converted to Sunni Islam from Catholicism. He adopted the Arabic name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar which means “Noble Servant of the Powerful One.”

How Brazilian football legend Pele came to be known as Pele is also an interesting story.

He was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento and was a big fan of the Vasco da Gama goalkeeper Bile. However, he had trouble pronouncing the name and often called the keeper ‘Pilé’ instead of ‘Bile’, which eventually became Pele thanks to the youngster’s accent.

Thereafter, Edson would be called Pele by everyone.

Former Afghanistan cricket captain Asghar Afghan, born Mohammad Asghar Stanikzai, decided to change his surname in 2018 in ‘honour of protecting the national identity of Afghan citizens’.

Sri Lankan batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan, meanwhile, was born in a Muslim family in 1976 and named Tuwan Mohammad Dilshan. When he was 16, he converted from Islam to Buddhism, the religion of his mother.

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