HITTING THE JACKPOT
They call him “Jackpot” – the result of winning a $72,000 bonanza in a Las Vegas casino and being unable to collect his winnings due to being underage by US Law. But Adrian Lewis is now more than making up for that misfortune, building a lucrative career on the Professional Darts Corporation world tour. The 28 year old gave up a job working on building sites to become a two-time world champion, with the promise of many more to come.
Did you ever think you’d make a living out of playing darts?
To be honest I came into it at the right time. I knew there was money to be made obviously from watching the likes of Phil Taylor and Raymond Van Barneveld so it’s fantastic.
You must have had a fair bit of talent before it reached that point though?
Yeah I started playing when I was nearly 18. I was working in the building trade and I started having a throw down at the pub when I finished work. Then I started hitting the 180’s and I thought yeah I can do this. So I started entering a few tournaments and winning then so that’s where I’ve come from.
Was there a point then where even your mates were going “gee you can play, you should have a crack at the pro circuit”?
Yeah, I think obviously the more experience I was gaining over the years I realised then that I could win the world championship and that’s when I became really good.
What about initially though? I mean you were working on a building site. Was there a point where you thought darts may present you with a new life?
Yeah I think when I turned pro I was 21. So when I qualified for two or three TV events I thought ‘right I’m going to give it a shot’ and obviously that’s why I’m where I am now.
So how do you go on to make that initial switch? Did you just ring someone up and say “hey I’m pretty good I’d like to have a go at the big time”?
The first couple of years in the PDC (Professional Darts Corporation) I was sponsoring myself. That’s what I was doing. And my Mum is a care worker and she would give me 50 quid a week to get me by for practicing and playing in little local tournaments. So I was just picking up a few quid here and there to help pay for my tournaments in the PDC.
You mentioned that you’d seen Phil do so well before you started. I mean he’s an icon in world darts. But you’ve taken him down in a few of the big tournaments. Would it be far-fetched to call him your hero or your idol?
He still is I think in a lot of people’s eyes. I don’t think anyone will ever emulate what Phil Taylor’s been able to do. I don’t think anybody will win 16 world titles again. If I could win 8 to 10 I would be happy with that. I mean the first time I ever played Phil I beat him on the floor. And then obviously he kicked my backside a few times.
What was it like the first time you got to go up against the great man?
I was practicing with him at the time actually. So it was just like being back on the practice board and playing my game.
So there was no element of stage fright to it then? It wasn’t a case of ‘wow, I’m playing Phil Taylor’?
Yeah there was. It was great to even be on the stage with the guy you know. I mean, there will never be another Phil Taylor. And here I was, playing against him.
It’s come a long way hasn’t it? Here in Australia we mostly only see it on TV but it’s mad. The fans are crazy.
It is amazing. And it is growing obviously. All TV stations are getting involved. It’s a fantastic time for being in the game.
Are you good with maths?
I wasn’t at school, no. I have to be honest, I wasn’t the greatest. But I’m getting better at it.
I guess the point is you need to know where you’re going to target don’t you?
Yeah you try to make obviously 501. Try to work out six or nine darts in front of you. So you’re looking for the shots to leave yourself with an out shot. You don’t want to be left on bogies.
What’s your best shot?
180. Hahaha. No. If you mean one dart to double out – double top.
Why? Are you able to narrow that one down better than other spots on the board?
I think double top obviously it’s double 20’s. So if you’ve been looking at treble 20’s all you’ve been doing there is coming down. So you just need to adjust your eyes a little and just aim two and a half inches above for the double 20.
Can you see an end to your darts career?
Obviously I’m looking forward to retiring in 20 years or so. I think I’ve still got another 20 years in the game.
Gee not many athletes can be at the top of their game and still plan for another 20 years in the sport!
That’s right. It’s not like football where you have to retire in your mid-30’s or so. You can just keep going as long as you like.
You guys see plenty of the world. Do you enjoy the travelling?
Ummm. Well, it’s one of those things I guess. Once you’re at the venue it’s alright. I being at the venues but not the travelling so much.
How far can darts go? Because it hasn’t cracked America as a professional sport yet. Can it crack America?
I think so. In time. Obviously we’ve got a lot of characters in the game now. I think it definitely will in the next 10 years.
Why is it that at the moment participation professionally is largely confined to the UK and European nations?
I’m not too sure. Maybe because beforehand it didn’t really have the coverage that it does now. And the hype. And the crowds to be honest. I think once people have been to the darts once and seen for themselves what it was like with the atmosphere it starts attracting more people. And then obviously they keep talking in their groups. And obviously it’s on the internet and then they post stuff on their Twitter and on Facebook and it just keeps growing and progessing all the time.
Yep. And for that reason it just strikes me as a sport the Americans would go crazy for.
Yeah I agree with you. And I think in time they definitely will.
Then your pockets will be full!
Ooh yeah. Hopefully. Haha. Then I might do 10 years and retire! Haha.