Luke Humphries lost four stone to become No 1 – now he stands on top of the world

Luke Humphries celebrates with the trophy after beating Luke Littler in the World Darts Championship final
Luke Humphries celebrates with the trophy after beating Luke Littler in the World Darts Championship final - AP/Kin Cheung

Darts has a new world champion and world No 1 by the name of Luke.

And no, it is not Luke Littler. It is ‘Cool Hand’ Luke Humphries, the winner now of the last four televised darts ‘majors’ and a player transformed since shedding four stone in weight.

For those arriving at the Ally Pally simply expecting a story-book finale to the Littler fairy tale, it should be stressed that the warning signs were already staring them in the face. Humphries had been imperious during his semi-final victory on Tuesday night, demolishing Scott Williams 6-0 with an exceptional 108.74 average and, under the fiercest glare, he was again clinical when it mattered most. “It’s a massive moment - something you can only dream of,” he said.

Humphries has been largely happy to slip under the radar at the Alexandra Palace over recent days but, at the age only of 28 himself, is the embodiment of a modern breed of player who has clinically identified the millionaire possibilities and treats darts like a profession.

After five years as a roofer in Newbury with his dad Mark and brother Stuart, Humphries would complete his last job up a ladder in March 2018, the day before his first tournament as a professional at the UK Open.

He saw a cardiologist about heart palpitations

He reached the World Championship quarter-final the following year but his subsequent path to the absolute summit of darts has been anything but seamless.

Humphries knew he had both the talent and the commitment but playing under the television lights in a sport where millimetres decide your fate also requires the critical ability to hold your nerve. He became anxious to the extent that he even visited a cardiologist to try to understand if there was any deeper explanation for his heart palpitations.

After losing one match in 2019 to James Wade from a winning position, Humphries even almost walked away from the sport.

There is deep steel, however, beneath the understated demeanour and he first sought therapy in what became a successful attempt to change his mental approach.

Humphries also addressed his physical fitness and, under a regime of daily workouts on an exercise bike coupled with a complete overhaul of his diet, he began steadily shedding around four pounds a week.

Weight loss is a subject of considerable debate inside darts and there is a theory that the more traditionally sturdy base does actually provide an optimum anchor from which the arm and eyes can go about their work. Phil Taylor’s defeats in the 2003 and 2014 World Championship finals, for example, were blamed by some good judges (though not Taylor himself) on losing weight too quickly.

Phil Taylor in action against Colin McGarry in 2003
Phil Taylor lost a lot of weight in 2003 - Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Humphries believes that it was critical that he slimmed down at a consistent rate while continuing to practise throughout the process.

“It was a conscious decision to change my lifestyle,” he says. “The last three or four years I have worked hard on all aspects of becoming the best version of me.

“A lot of players have lost a lot of weight and it’s impacted them negatively, performance-wise. When you’re losing 4lb a week while practising, your body doesn’t really notice the changes. If I’d lost four stone and not thrown a dart during that period, it would have been different. I felt better in myself and I didn’t feel any different with my throw.”

Luke Humphries flexes his muscles
Humphries ensured his weight loss did not affect his throwing - Tolga Akmen/Shutterstock

And so what have been the benefits to his performance? “Health body, healthy mind,” he says. “It is no coincidence that I never used to be able to get to those quarter-finals, semi-finals because I would run out of energy.

“Everyone thinks being a darts player is easy - it’s not. The European Tour finals, they are the longest possible days you could imagine and I am doing them at a canter now and I could probably go three more games after the final.

“I don’t think I would be where I am now as the unfit and unhealthy version of me. It is another piece of the puzzle. I think a lot of players will in the end follow suit - I think they’ll realise that being fit and healthy does give you a little bit of an advantage.”

It was certainly noticeable on Tuesday night that, when shown a photograph of himself with Littler from four years ago, Humphries immediately pointed out his subsequent physical transformation.

A much larger Luke Humphries (right) with a 12-year-old Luke Littler (left) four years ago
A much larger Luke Humphries (right) with a 12-year-old Luke Littler (left) four years ago

After reaching the final of the UK Open in 2021, the big breakthrough would arrive in 2022 when he won the Players Championship and four European Tour events before an extraordinary 49-day run last year that saw him reel off the the World Grand Prix and the Grand Slam of Darts before beating Michael van Gerwen to win the Players Championship Finals.

Victory here makes him only the third player after Van Gerwen and Phil Taylor to win four such prestigious events in the space of 12 months.

Humphries has long wanted to earn enough from darts to let his dad retire after 40 years as a roofer and, with £500,000 in his pocket and the certainty of being invited into the £1 million Premier League, he had surely now achieved that aim. And, for all his extraordinary success, there is no hint of bitterness over how the other Luke has grabbed just about every darting headline over the past fortnight.

“He [Littler] deserves all the attention - the plaudits and media on his side,” said Humphries. “He was 12 when I first played him and he was scarily good even then. He’s shown that he is the real deal but I have always believed in myself.”

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