World Darts Championship: In 2017, Florian Hempel began playing darts for the first time. After knocking off one of the sport’s biggest names, the new star of German darts is through to the third round on his World Championship debut, four years later.
Hempel stunned former World Matchplay champion Dimitri Van den Bergh on Tuesday night, averaging 98.37 and converting 75 percent of his double tries to pull off a significant upset.
The quality was unwavering, but it was Hempel’s fearlessness that attracted the audience’s attention.
Hempel may be a newcomer to the sport of darts, but the multi-talented German is no stranger to the rigours of high-level competition.
The 31-year-old began his career as a goalie in the Handball-Bundesliga, spending nearly a decade in the German second tier.
Hempel is also a certified fitness coach and nutritionist, but he abandoned his work in 2018 to pursue his darting goals, and he made his European Tour debut a year later.
He qualified for the PDC circuit after completing European Qualifying School in February, but his momentum was stunted as he missed the UK Open and a series of Pro Tour events owing to personal circumstances.
Despite playing in only 18 of the 30 Players Championship tournaments this year, Hempel easily qualified for the World Championship via the Pro Tour Order of Merit, achieving his maiden ranking semi-final in October.
On his broadcast debut at the European Championship earlier that month, the Cologne-based arrowsmith defeated world No. 2 Peter Wright, demonstrating his credentials on the big stage.
Hempel will undoubtedly pursue his own route, but world No. 1 Gerwyn Price is a source of inspiration when it comes to transferring your sporting pedigree to the darting arena.
It’s difficult to analyse Hempel’s rapid trajectory without drawing clear parallels to ‘The Iceman’s’ spectacular ascension from rugby professional to world champion in just seven years.
Price’s feats will be difficult to duplicate, but the early signs are positive for the 31-year-old, who is set to represent Germany at the World Cup of Darts next year.
With his win over Van den Bergh, Hempel has risen above his compatriot Martin Schindler, whom he defeated in straight sets in his Ally Pally opener, to become Germany’s new No 2.
Last weekend, the rookie demolished ‘The Wall’ with three ton-plus finishes, but his performance versus ‘The Dream Maker’ has made the darting world sit up and take notice.
“I defeated a World Matchplay champion, one of the top players in the world.” It was my game, after all. “I was at ease,” Hempel told Sky Sports.
“This year, I won my Tour Card.” I was unable to compete in the first half of this year, and I am currently in the third round of the World Championships. It’s very incredible.
“This is the world’s largest tournament.” I felt at ease on stage, and I felt at ease with this crowd. He went on to say, “I adore it here.”
What remains to be seen is how far he can push himself.
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