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Luke Littler: Get Acquainted with the Youngest Finalist in the Darts Championship

IWhat a rollercoaster journey it has been for Luke Littler, the 16-year-old darts prodigy who recently gained immense popularity as he rose through the ranks of top players around the world. After breaking records and triumphing over opponents double his age to become the youngest contender in the finals of the World Darts Championship, Littler ultimately faced defeat against Luke Humphries (7-4) during the competition held on Wednesday.

In recent weeks, he has outperformed even the most seasoned darts players, including former world champions. Littler is set to challenge world No. 1 Luke Humphries in Wednesday’s finals.

With Littler’s newfound fame, the relatively niche professional sport—perhaps recognized better as a favored activity in bars—is experiencing a fresh wave of interest. Here’s an insight into Luke Littler and the World Darts Championship.

Who is Luke Littler?

Dubbed as “The Nuke,” Littler made history last week by becoming the youngest-ever player to reach the semi-finals of the World Darts Championship—surpassing this record by progressing to the finals this week. 

Before Littler’s appearance, the title of the youngest World Championship finalist was held by Kirk Shepherd, who was 21 years old when he was declared the 2008 runner-up.

Littler astonished onlookers when he defeated former world champion Rob Cross 6-2 in the semi-finals on Tuesday. Sky Sports commentator Wayne Mardle commented on Littler’s victory, stating that the teenager was “probably the most naturally talented player I have ever seen in my life.” Mardle also mentioned that Littler had “the darting world at his feet.”

“I am speechless, it’s unbelievable to think I’m in a World Championship final in my debut,” Littler conveyed to Sky Sports. “I was content with winning one game but I have the potential to go all the way.”

“Rob said to me ‘Good luck, you’re a step away, do it,’” he revealed. Cross had clinched the World Championship on his debut six years ago.

Last Saturday, Littler defeated five-time world champion Raymond Van Barneveld to advance to the quarter-finals. When speaking about Van Barneveld, his idol, Littler described the 56-year-old, who has been competitively playing since 1984.

Littler, residing in the English town of Warrington, began throwing darts on a magnetic board at the tender age of 18 months. He stated to the BBC that he has been playing “incessantly” since then.

Who is Luke Humphries?

The 28-year-old, also known as “Cool Hand Luke,” has been enjoying a winning streak since October, securing significant titles at the World Grand Prix, Grand Slam of Darts, and Players Championship Finals. After a 6-0 victory over Scott Williams in the semi-finals on Tuesday, he achieved the position of world No. 1 for the first time in his career.

Despite Littler’s relative inexperience, Humphries did not underestimate his young opponent in the finals. “Nothing is going to intimidate him. If he performs like he did tonight, tomorrow will not faze him at all, so I will probably need to deliver the performance of my life,” Humphries expressed to Sky Sports prior to the competition.

What is the World Darts Championship

As one of the most prominent events in the world of darts, the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) World Darts Championship, inaugurated in 1994, typically commences in December and extends into the new year. 

With crowds flocking to Alexandra Palace—the historic entertainment venue where the darts championship has been held since 2008—the ambiance is usually more celebratory than tense.

In line with the event’s festive customs, spectators have been attending the matches in unconventional attire such as elves, dinosaurs, and King Charles—often with pints in hand throughout the evening.

“You are not backing anyone; you just applaud when something good occurs,” one fan conveyed to CNN. “The sport comes second.”

Nevertheless, for world-class players, darts is a serious athletic pursuit that demands 

near-perfect accuracy. Players commence with 501 points and strive to be the first to reduce the points to zero. They accomplish this by throwing three darts during each turn, deducting the sum of the three scores from their total points based on where the darts land on the board. To clinch the game, players must finish by landing a double—that is, hitting the dart on a specific ring on the board.

The victor of the PDC World Darts Championship receives a prize of £500,000 ($631,000) while the runner-up is awarded £200,000 ($253,000). Semi-finalists depart with £100,000 ($126,000).

Winners of the PDC World Darts Championship also take home the Sid Waddell Trophy, named after the late commentator widely known as the “Voice of Darts.”

Although Littler fell short of seizing the championship this year, his career is evidently just beginning. As Humphries endorsed,  “The whole day, in the back of my mind, I’ve been thinking, ‘Secure this victory now because he’s going to dominate world darts soon!’”

And as for Littler, he is already contemplating the next competition. “I may not reach a final for another 5-10 years, we can’t predict, but I can say I’m a runner-up,” he expressed following the match, “I just want to go and win it.” 

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