Game changers: When talent and desire meant a change of career for good sports

By Sports Desk January 16, 2024

Gloucester have released Wales and British and Irish Lions wing Louis Rees-Zammit with immediate effect to “pursue his dream” of a career in American football.

The Gallagher Premiership club made the surprise announcement as Wales head coach Warren Gatland prepared to unveil his squad for the Guinness Six Nations Championship.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some other multi-talented sports people:

Denis Compton (cricket and football)

Compton played 75 Test matches for England, making his debut in 1937 aged 19 and scoring his first century the following year against Don Bradman’s touring Australian side. He had made his Arsenal debut in 1936 and went on to win the league title in 1948 and FA Cup in 1950 with the Gunners, the same year in which he helped Middlesex win the County Championship.

Babe Didrikson Zaharias (athletics, golf)

Zaharias also excelled at basketball and baseball, but initially made her name in track and field, winning two gold medals and one silver in the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. Zaharias won the javelin comfortably, took the 80 metres hurdles in a world record time and finished equal first in the high jump before losing the title when her technique was deemed illegal. A latecomer to golf, she won more than 50 titles, including the US Women’s Open three times, and co-founded the LPGA.

Lottie Dod (tennis, golf, archery)

Lottie Dod remains Wimbledon’s youngest women’s singles champion, winning the first of her five titles at just 15 years and 285 days old in 1887. Later turning her attention to golf, she won the 1904 British Ladies Amateur title and four years later won a silver medal in archery at the Olympic Games in London, where her brother Willy claimed gold in the men’s event.

Jim Thorpe (athletics, gridiron, basketball)

The first Native American to win gold for the United States in the Olympics, Thorpe won both the pentathlon and decathlon in Stockholm in 2012. He lost his titles after it emerged he had previously been paid for playing semi-professional baseball, but they were eventually reinstated by the International Olympic Committee. Thorpe played six seasons in major league baseball and for six NFL teams, as well as enjoying a less-well documented spell in professional basketball.

Victoria Pendleton (cycling and horse racing)

Two-time Olympic champion track cyclist Victoria Pendleton announced in March 2015 that she had set her sights on riding in the following year’s Cheltenham Festival. She made her competitive debut in August 2015 and won her first race, on March 2, 2016, on 5-4 favourite Pacha Du Polder at Wincanton. Pendleton then achieved her stated aim of riding in the Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham and finished fifth, describing the result as “probably the greatest achievement of my life”.

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    Cane made his All Blacks debut in 2012 and has represented his country 95 times, including through the team's triumphant run at the 2015 World Cup.

    The flanker succeeded Kieran Read as captain in 2020, though his most recent international outing ended with him suffering the ignominy of becoming the first man to be sent off in a Rugby World Cup final, as New Zealand were beaten by South Africa last year.

    Cane will be eligible to represent the All Blacks through the second half of 2024 after returning from an initial spell in Japan but will then head there permanently after New Zealand Rugby agreed to release him from his contract. 

    "A good opportunity came my way with Sungoliath willing to offer me a three-year contract," Cane said. "I had to weigh up everything and, in the end, with a young family it seemed like the best decision to help set us up for our future.

    "I had my time as captain and it was a huge honour and privilege. If I'm fortunate enough to be selected for the All Blacks this year then I'll still be myself. 

    "I love that team, and if part of my role is contributing leadership-wise, I'll be happy to support the new captain as best I can to help with a speedy transition."

  • Seales takes second five-wicket haul in a row for Sussex; Holder smashes 123* for Worcestershire Seales takes second five-wicket haul in a row for Sussex; Holder smashes 123* for Worcestershire

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    Seales has, so far, taken 5-101 in 23 overs as Glamorgan have advanced to 411-9 off 102 overs, replying to Sussex’s 278 all out off 87.2 overs on day one.

    Glamorgan’s batting effort was led by excellent centuries from Colin Ingram and Kiran Carlson.

    Ingram led the way with a 248-ball 170 including 23 fours and three sixes while Carlson made 148 off 217 balls and hit 21 fours in the process.

    Seales and Sussex will enter day three on Sunday trailing Glamorgan by 133 runs looking to dismiss them as quickly as possible.

    Full scores:

    Sussex 278 off 87.2 overs (Fynn Hudson-Prentice 48, Cheteshwar Pujara 41, Jack Carson 39, Aristides Karvelas 39, Mir Hamza 4-70, James Harris 4-93)

    Glamorgan 411-9 off 102 overs (Colin Ingram 170, Kiran Carlson 148, Jayden Seales 5-101)

    Elsewhere, Jason Holder was one of three Worcestershire batsmen to make centuries as they piled up a massive 618-7 declared in their first innings against Kent on day two at the St. Lawrence Ground in Canterbury.

    Holder made a brilliant 123* off just 110 balls including seven fours and three sixes while Gareth Roderick and Matthew Waite both also reached three figures with 117 and 100*, respectively. 

    Adam Hose fell just ten runs short of a century himself.

    Joey Evison and Matt Parkinson each ended with three wicket-hauls for Kent.

    In reply, Kent reached 111-2 at stumps with Captain Daniel Bell-Drummond (54*0 and Jack Leaning (43*) at the crease.

    Joe Leach has taken both wickets to fall so far.

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    Worcestershire 617-8 dec. off 158.5 overs (Jason Holder 123*, Gareth Roderick 117, Matthew Waite 100*, Adam Hose 90, Joey Evison 3-58, Matt Parkinson 3-201)

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    Louis Rees-Zammit has likened Patrick Mahomes to an extra coach as he looks to make an impact in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs.

    Rees-Zammit shocked rugby union fans in January when he announced he was turning his back on the sport to enter the NFL's International Player Pathway programme. 

    He was signed by two-time defending Super Bowl champions Kansas City in March and is now looking to earn a place on their roster for 2024, learning the role of running back at the Chiefs' rookie minicamp after attending another training camp alongside Mahomes. 

    Rees-Zammit has made sure to pick the brains of Mahomes, who has led the Chiefs to six straight AFC Championship games and won three Super Bowl rings since being drafted in 2017.

    "It was amazing, all the quarterbacks and receivers were there, we were running routes, we were working in the gym", Rees-Zammit said of his experience at that camp in Texas.

    "It was a great two weeks, I definitely learned a lot with Pat and the other boys."

    Asked if Mahomes was acting like an extra coach, he said: "100 per cent. 

    "I'm new to the game so I'm trying to pick everyone's brains and try and pick up the sport as quick as possible because I want to be out there playing.

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    "I like the fact he's got shorter steps initially, that's a good thing as a running back. If you're a long strider in there you've got to really work on making it through those tight adjustments you have to make. He seems to have a nice feel."
     

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