Luke Littler, the 16-year-old darts prodigy, has had an incredible journey so far. He quickly gained popularity after making his way into the list of the world’s greatest players, defeating opponents twice his age and breaking records on the way. However, he lost to Luke Humphries (7-4) during Wednesday’s competition in the World Darts Championship finals.
In the past few weeks, Luke Littler has managed to defeat some of the most experienced darts players in the world, including some former world champions. On Wednesday, he will be facing off against the current world No. 1, Luke Humphries, at the finals.
Thanks to Littler’s recent success, the relatively lesser-known professional sport of darts, which is often a favorite pastime in bars, is now experiencing a renewed interest from fans. To learn more about Luke Littler and the upcoming World Darts Championship, keep reading.
Who is Luke Littler?
Littler, nicknamed “The Nuke,” has made history by becoming the youngest-ever player to reach the semi-finals and the finals of the World Darts Championship. Previously, the title was held by Kirk Shepherd as the youngest World Championship finalist, who was 21 years old when he was named the 2008 runner-up. Littler stunned the audience when he defeated former world champion, Rob Cross, 6-2 in the semi-finals on Tuesday. Sky Sports commentator Wayne Mardle remarked on Littler’s victory, saying, “He’s got the darting world at his feet,” and that the teenager was “probably the most naturally gifted player I have ever seen in my life.”
Littler said, “I have no words, it’s just crazy to think I’m in a World Championship final in my debut. I was happy winning one game, but I could go all the way.” Cross told him, “God bless, you’re a step away, do it,” recalling his own World Championship victory on his debut six years ago.
On Saturday, Littler beat Raymond Van Barneveld, a five-time world champion, to enter the quarter-finals. Van Barneveld, who has been playing competitively since 1984, was described by Littler as one of his idols.
Littler lives in the English town of Warrington and started throwing darts when he was only 18 months old on a magnetic board. He has been playing “non-stop” ever since and is now making a name for himself in the world of darts.
Who is Luke Humphries?
A 28-year-old darts player, who goes by the nickname “Cool Hand Luke”, has recently been winning major titles such as the World Grand Prix, Grand Slam of Darts, and Players Championship Finals since October. He recently achieved the world No. 1 ranking for the first time in his career after defeating Scott Williams 6-0 in the semi-finals on Tuesday. Despite his young opponent’s comparative inexperience, Humphries did not underestimate him in the finals, saying “Nothing is going to faze him. If he plays like he did tonight, tomorrow is not going to faze him at all, so I will probably have to play the game of my life,” in an interview with Sky Sports before the competition.
What is the World Darts Championship
The Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) World Darts Championship is one of the biggest tournaments in the darting calendar. It has been held annually since 1994, usually starting in December and extending into the new year. The championship takes place in Alexandra Palace, a historic entertainment venue that has hosted the event since 2008. While the atmosphere is usually lively and celebratory, with spectators dressing up in outlandish costumes and enjoying pints throughout the night, for the world-class players, it is a serious sporting pursuit that requires near-perfect precision.
The game aims to be the first player to deduct their points to zero. Each player starts with 501 points and throws three darts with every turn. Depending on where the darts land on the board, the sum of the three scores is deducted from their total number of points. To win the game, players must finish by throwing a double, getting the same score twice in a row.
The winner of the PDC World Darts Championship receives a prize of £500,000 ($631,000), while the runner-up gets £200,000 ($253,000). Semi-finalists get £100,000 ($126,000) each. Winners also receive the Sid Waddell Trophy, named after the late commentator popularly known as the “Voice of Darts.”
This year, Littler did not secure the championship, but his career is just beginning, according to Humphries, who said, “All day, in the back of my mind, I’ve been thinking, ‘Get this won now because he’s gonna dominate world darts soon!’”
During the match, Littler expressed his determination to win the next competition. He acknowledged the possibility of not reaching the final for another 5-10 years but stated that he was already a runner-up. “I just want to go and win it,” he said.
This post originally appeared on TIME