Power to the People

The world number one and legend of the darts world, Phil “The Power” Taylor, speaks to Ryan Mackenzie about sports stardom, healthy eating and his most memorably moments.

Phil Taylor finds himself in a rather rare situation in the world of sport. At the age of fifty, he is in the best form of his life and demonstrating just what it means to be a truly dominant phenomenon.

There aren’t many sports in which a player can be the unquestionable world number one for over twenty years, yet “The Power” – as he has so deservedly become known – has transformed the world of darts since he emerged onto the scene in 1988 and continues to pull away from the field.

I was privileged enough to meet up with Taylor when he made a brief stop over in the capital promoting the highly anticipated Bodog.com World Grand Prix tournament, which will be held in Dublin’s Citywest hotel in early October.

Taylor has already laid claim to nine world grand prix competions and is eager to reach double figures. The great man eluded to having a glimmer of mortality however, claiming, “I am a little bit scared [of the] first round,” due to the nature of this double-start competition.

Surprisingly though, it wasn’t the aura of brilliance or unrivaled success that made the presence of “The Power” a pleasure to behold, nor was it the sterling supremacy of his career which made him an endearing figure.

The most impressive quality of the finest player to ever throw a dart was his down-to-earth nature. Those without prior knowledge of his triumphant career could be forgiven for disbelieving that the man sitting in front of the eagerly peering press was a global superstar.

Far from the arrogant and success-corrupted demeanour of sports stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Kobe Bryant, Taylor demonstrated a personality which typified the very essence of darts.

Almost conveying an attitude of naivety towards the magnitude of his success, the world number-one spoke in a modest tone and made no attempt to shy away from the truth. At one stage he even humourously admitted, “I’ve actually woken up three times this week with a hard-on” amid discussion of his fruitful new training and nutritional programmes.

Aside from this light-humoured response towards his new fitness regime, it would appear that Taylor has placed huge emphasis on his health. Claiming to have lost over three stone, he spoke candidly of his unhappiness at his unhealthy past.

When asked about the inspiration for his new health kick, he explained, “I want to prolong my career and make myself better, and now I’m a lot happier and a lot fitter with a lot more energy”.

There can be no mistake that the game of darts has evolved into a sport for athletes, where the traditional beer-chugging punters of the past can no longer keep up and “The Power” has no intentions of falling behind.

Certainly the question must be asked: how long can Phil Taylor continue to dominate the sport? When quizzed over whether his ambitions lay in retiring at the top or simply playing until he can no longer make the dart reach the board, he replied with another assuringly humble and frank response: “I’m going to go for another five years when I get my pension. It should have been when I was fifty but the government changed the rules”.

Intentions are one thing, but fulfilling those ambitions could prove to be more difficult than anticipated. The new breed of player that we see entering the tour is far from the beer-bellied “man’s man” that graced the leaderboard during Taylor’s early years. The older generation, spearheaded by big Phil, could find that their talent may lack the stamina to outlast this new model of bullseye hitter.

It is no secret that the decline of a sportsman in his latter years is a far steeper and rapidly effective slope than that of their ascension to the top. While Taylor’s confidence was impressive, only time will tell if he can hold off the hungry pack that eagerly awaits any slip up to come from the master.

So what, over the course of Taylor’s career, has been the greatest match and finest memory of his time in professional darts? As you would imagine, his response was one of general content with what has been a fantastic career.

But how could he choose just one moment? Having won fifteen World Championships – including eight-in-a-row – and ten World Matchplay titles, as well as smashing almost every record in the game and cheapening the once astonishing nine-dart finish by converting seven in televised events alone, Phil Taylor’s career has been a procession of the extraodinary.

As well as singling out his first two World Championships, Taylor pinpointed his victory in the News of the World Individual Darts Championship as a particularly special moment in his career, commenting, “you havn’t won anything till you’ve won the News of the World. Well I have”. A classy answer, befitting of a classy champion.