Michael Van Gerwen talks sport, money and competition at the Duty Free mMsters
The top eight darts players in the world are coming to Dubai to compete in the Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters 2014. Benita Adesuyan caught up with world number one Michael Van Gerwen ahead of the tournament.
Michael van Gerwen has highly prized hands. He is the current PDC World Champion and number one darts thrower in the world and he’s coming to Dubai for the Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters. Having won last year at the unique open air event in the Irish Village, he’s returning as the main man in this year’s competition. The 25 year-old Dutchman, known as Mighty Mike has been shaking up the darts world with his expressive celebrations and continued dominance in the game. We caught up with him to talk training, technique and how he has gone about perfecting his game since the age of 13.
How does the event in Dubai compare to The Netherlands or The UK where you have played previously? It’s totally different. This is new – they’re building up the tournament over here. It’s going very well so it will be nice if the event sells out. Also we play outside, which is a big difference.
How important is the atmosphere at a darts game? It’s key. The people that come to watch darts like to have a good night out. It’s the same as in many other sports, but in other sports, like tennis they’re not selling as many tickets as in darts. We play the O2 in London to 40,000 people and it’s getting bigger all the time.
Some critics say darts isn’t a sport – it’s a game. What do you say to that? Then I ask you this question – why is golf a sport? Driving around in a buggy – come on.
What skills do you need to be a good darts player? You need to have the talent, but also need to have good concentration and be mentally very strong. Because when there are 12,000 people screaming and singing it can make you nervous, so you have to train your mind and it’s not easy. If you just pick up a set of darts, and try to hit the centre you’ll think, how does he do that?
Is darts a big money sport? Every year we have £7 million (Dhs43 million) prize money. I’ve won over £1 million in the last three years, that’s not bad for darts. If you ask a swimmer what they earn, maybe they make £15,000 a year. The money’s good if you win. If you play badly – you don’t win anything.
How do you prepare for a tournament like this? In Holland it’s not 30 degrees so I can’t practise my game and train in the same conditions but I’ll be here a week before the event. In that time I can get used to the wind and the temperature. I usually go to the venue and prep for more than two hours, I always do the same thing. I don’t wear the same boxer shorts or stuff like that, but I come in to prepare at the same time, and the routine works for me. I have to look after my body, especially my fingers, so I can’t go on winter holidays or do anything extreme in case anything happens to my hands.
How did you feel winning last year’s inaugural event? It was very special because last year I was the challenger. Phil Taylor did the press launch last year, and then I beat him, so now I get to do it. It’s weird because as a boy I dreamed to be a world champion but now it’s happening.
You’re well-known for your exuberant celebrations. Will we be seeing a lot of that when you come to Dubai? Yes. I have a lot of passion for what I do and for my sport, and I don’t like losing. I’m a winner and I like to win. I have a lot of adrenalin in my body so when I do something well I have to let it out.
You’re number one, and the person to beat – is there anyone you’re worried about playing? No, I’m not worried about anyone – I always tell myself I’m the best. Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters 2014. Admission from Dhs250 for one-day general admission. Thursday May 29-Friday May 30, 5pm. Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Garhoud, www.timeouttickets.com.
Where to throw darts in Dubai
The Underground Pub This British style pub has a dartboard where guests can play a few rounds. The bar also often shows many of the major darts championships on its TV screens. Free. Daily. 12.30pm-3am. Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa, Dubai Marina www.grandjumeirah.habtoorhotels.com (04 399 5000).
Crown & Lion English Bar For Brit expats seeking a slice of home, head here for sport, traditional grub and a chance to play on one of their dartboards. Free. Daily except Sat-Sun. 11am-3am. Byblos Hotel, TECOM, www.bybloshoteldubai.com (04 4488 000)