Who Is Darts Champion Luke Humphries?

It was the Cinderella story turned Cinderella as runner-up. When the darts were thrown and the dust had settled, 16-year old Luke Littler would not, in fact, be the winner of the 2023/24 Professional Darts Corporation's (PDC) world championship. Though press coverage and viewer sympathies were firmly in his corner going into the match and he did hold a lead for a time, Littler was defeated by veteran player Luke Humphries (via The Guardian).

Speaking to Sky Sport after the match, Littler took the defeat in stride, expressing gratitude for making it to the final (via NPR). Humphries had nothing but praise for his rival after winning. "All day, in the back of my mind, I've been thinking: 'Get this won now, because he's going to dominate world darts soon,'" he said after the match (via The Guardian). But if Littler was the darling of the darts world for much of the season, Humphries' own story was of strong interest to darts fans — and received fresh focus in the press after his victory.

Humphries experienced anxiety as a high-profile darts player

While profiling Luke Humphries for The Guardian, sportswriter Jonathan Liew drew a sharp contrast between the young darts player and an older generation. Liew described the latter through the "Come Dine With Me" lens, referring to their cultivation of simple, easily read personas to increase recognition and drama. In the darts world, this translated to a lot of swaggering machismo and an affected indifference.

Humphries, though given the nickname "Cool Hand Luke" by the press, has a reputation for authenticity. Some darts fans have complained that this makes him boring to watch. But others have found it refreshing and exciting to see him openly show frustration, nervousness, and tears of joy without manufactured histrionics.

It's a level of comfortability that was long coming, as Humphries has discussed his episodes of anxiety early in his darts career. Despite enjoying the sport and recognizing his talent, he struggled to maintain his level of skill when he began playing at televised events and, according to The Telegraph, suffered heart palpitations enough to check with a cardiologist. He considered retiring in 2019, but therapy helped his game and his mental health ahead of the 2023/24 PDC season he eventually won.

His fitness regime was questioned by some in the darts world

Besides pursuing therapy for his anxiety, Luke Humphries spent several years ahead of the 2023/24 PDC season working on his physical fitness. Notably, The Telegraph reported that he lost four stone (56 pounds) in that time. And yet this wasn't considered a wise move by some. In the darts world, some hold to a theory that more body mass makes for a better player, having a more rooted base to throw from. For example, some judges have blamed weight loss for the failure of Phil Taylor in the 2003 and 2014 World Championship finals.

Humphries felt that the problem wasn't the weight loss but the lack of practice while doing so, that was the problem. "When you're losing 4-pound a week while practicing, your body doesn't really notice the changes," he told The Telegraph. "If I'd lost 4 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." He also said that his fitness regime helped with endurance, saying that despite the long days of the European Tour, he could do them "at a canter" and still have energy for more.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.