Sixteen-year-old Luke Littler is stealing the show at the World Darts Championship – and is now tipped as one of the favourites for the title.
Nicknamed “The Nuke”, the teenager’s sensational performances have seen him storm into the third round and have won plaudits from his idol Phil “The Power” Taylor.
Here’s everything you need to know about the sport’s new prodigy – from learning to play in nappies as a toddler to his celebratory meals going viral.
Playing darts at 18 months old
He may only be a teenager but Littler, from Warrington, Cheshire, has been practising his throwing for some time.
He told Sky News: “There’s a video on YouTube of me when I was 18 months in a nappy listening to Raymond van Barneveld’s music, listening to Phil Taylor’s music, doing their celebrations.
“That’s when it started – 18 months and in a nappy on a magnetic board.
“[Aged] four or five I was on a proper board but it was a bit low and then about seven to eight (years old), that’s when I started playing [at] the proper height and the proper length. So it’s just been all darts in my life so far.”
Talent is one thing, but having the right support system to nurture it is just as important.
The teen clearly thinks a lot of his parents, who he says are “proud” of what he’s achieved so far.
“They just can’t believe (it), I can’t believe it myself,” he told Sky News.
“But it’s just good to have a set of parents who are supportive and that are always there for me and I’ve got a good management team around me. So it’s just the best group of people that can be around me, to be honest.”
A photo of Littler celebrating his first round win at the PDC World Dart Championships with a kebab went viral on social media.
The 16-year-old’s newly formed fan base probably expected a similar photo to come out after his second victory too, as he told Sky Sports he’d most likely tuck into another kebab to celebrate on Thursday night.
A plot twist came on Friday morning, though, as Littler revealed on Sky News that he opted for a different celebratory meal.
“Last night was just a standard KFC,” he boasted.
He’s clearly a down-to-earth lad, but with a World Darts Championship fixture looming over him until after Christmas, will Littler’s festive period feel a bit different to ours?
“It’s just like Christmas every year,” he said.
“Just chill, relax with the family, and obviously while they’re doing whatever, I’ll have to get on the board for a few hours each day and then obviously come back down, whenever the schedule’s next out.”
Fans and fame
Littler’s celebrity status is rising with every dart he throws.
His Instagram account has gone from 4,000 followers at the start of this tournament to 23,500 and counting.
He told Sky News he could feel the nation’s support while on the big stage.
“Everyone’s cheering, wanting my autograph and everything,” he said.
“Even young kids having my darts shirt on… It was good to see when I stepped on the stage.”
He also talked about the popularity of his personalised “The Nuke” darts sets.
“After my first two games in Ally Pally, 900 sets sold,” he said. “People all over the world… [I] couldn’t believe it. 900 sets, for winning two games at the Ally Pally!”
His career so far
Littler won his first match at the PDC World Championship on Wednesday, averaging an astonishing 106.12 in his demolition of former Lakeside champion Christian Kist in the first round.
He then held off a mid-match charge from the experienced Andrew Gilding to knock out the 20th seed with a 3-1 win on Thursday night.
Littler’s matches have seen the famously rowdy crowd at London’s Alexandra Palace (or Ally Pally) chanting: “You’ve got school in the morning.”
His early form means he’s suddenly on his way to being a household name, but his talent has been evident for some time.
He won the England Youth Grand Prix in 2019, became England Youth Open champion in 2021 and won his first senior title at the Irish Open later that year.
He won the Welsh Open in 2022 and this year notched further senior titles at the Isle of Man Classic, Gibraltar Open, British Open and British Classic.
The 16-year-old is also a back-to-back JDC World Champion and reigning World Youth Champion.
Littler’s got big dreams
The rookie reckons he can go all the way this year, and bookies clearly agree – he’s their fifth favourite to take home the championship trophy.
“If my A-game is there throughout the tournament, then I don’t see why not,” he told Sky Sports News when asked if he backs himself to win it.
“I know I’ve got a good chance,” he went on.
“I just wanted to win my first-round game and then as soon as I got back to my hotel, I said to my dad, ‘let’s make sure we come back after Christmas’.
“Now I’ve overachieved and hopefully I can beat Matt [Campbell] and overachieve again.”
When asked about his hero Phil Taylor backing him to win the tournament, he added: “What Phil has said, it’s a nice thing. It’s unbelievable – my idol talking about me.
“I’ve got to beat whoever’s in front of me, and just got to go game by game and hopefully, I do win it.”
The Power isn’t the only former darts player singing his praises. Sky Sports Darts’ Wayne Mardle has said Littler is “probably the most naturally gifted player I have ever seen in my life”.
What’s next for Littler?
He’ll face 34-year-old Canadian Matt Campbell on 27 December, live on Sky Sports Darts, with the final taking place on 3 January.
If he goes all the way, Littler will celebrate his 17th birthday on 21 January as the world champion.
Source : Sky News