December 5, 2020, 12:19

Devon Petersen on painful sacrifices required to chase his darting dreams

Devon Petersen on painful sacrifices required to chase his darting dreams

Petersen claimed his maiden PDC title in September and he’s made remarkable strides in 2020

Given the uncompromising nature of top-level sport, making sacrifices is essential in the pursuit of success, and nobody is more aware of this painful reality in the darting world than Devon Petersen.

Petersen has spearheaded the growth of darts in Africa since making his big-stage debut at the PDC World Championship almost a decade ago, but back in 2018, he relocated from Mitchell’s Plain to Bradford to pursue his darting dreams.

It was an enormous commitment to make, as he moved his life and family to the UK in order to compete as a full-time professional, and now he is reaping the rewards.

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Saturday’s Order of Play

Michael Smith vs Rob Cross
Devon Petersen vs Damon Heta
Michael van Gerwen vs Gary Anderson
Gerwyn Price vs Nathan Aspinall

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November 21, 2020, 7:00pm

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In September, Petersen secured his maiden PDC ranking title at the German Darts Championship, which was followed by his best televised showing just weeks later, as he featured in the semi-finals of the European Championship.

Having progressed through to the Grand Slam knockout stages with wins over world champion Peter Wright, World Grand Prix finalist Dirk van Duijvenbode and world No 12 Ian White, Petersen will break into the world’s top 32 for the first time in his career next week.

Prior to 2019, Petersen had never posted a ton-plus average on the PDC circuit – now it’s a surprise when he fails to register an average in three figures, having forged a reputation as one of the most prolific scorers on the planet.

This climb into the world’s top 32 represents a significant landmark for the 34-year-old, who paid tribute to those who have been instrumental in his remarkable ascent up the darting pyramid.

“It’s not even proud, it’s just the hard work that you obviously put in,” he told Sky Sports’ Michael Bridge.

An emotional Devon Petersen admits he’s been missing his family while being on the road touring with the darts.

“You’ve got the likes of Wayne Mardle, Colin Lloyd, Phil Taylor and everybody else, like my Dad, my wife – they all inject their energy into my career.

“It’s just those things that all come together and obviously when the draw comes out and you see who is in the draw and it’s all form players – Group E was a tough group and luckily I came on top without losing at all.”

Petersen – who will take on Damon Heta for a place in the Grand Slam quarter-finals on Saturday – cut an emotional figure as he reflected on his exploits over recent weeks, which have coincided with the birth of his daughter.

The truncated schedule has heightened the already gruelling demands placed on the world’s elite and with the restrictions in place due to Covid-19, the life of a darting professional is a rather lonely existence at present.

The stigma attached to mental health in sport appears to gradually be eroding, therefore it felt poignant that Petersen opened up about the ‘dark side of darts’ on International Men’s Day on Thursday.

“It is one of those things – up on stage everybody is amazing and we’re celebrating, but behind the scenes nobody sees the dark side of darts. It’s hard.”

Petersen on the demands of the darting circuit…

The South African spoke out following a powerful interview with British welterweight boxer Conor Benn, ahead of his fight against Sebastian Formella – live on Sky Sports this weekend.

Benn became tearful when revealing the strain of being away from his family for prolonged periods – emotions which resonated with the former World Cup of Darts quarter-finalist.

“When he was doing his interview it struck a chord because it’s exactly the same – I was looking at him and looking at a man in the mirror,” continued a tearful Petersen.

“I’ve been away from my family probably for the last four weeks and I’ve just had a baby as well, so I’ve not seen her grow. It’s tough.

“It is one of those things – up on stage everybody is amazing and we’re celebrating, but behind the scenes nobody sees the dark side of darts. It’s hard.

“You gather yourself and you look at the likes of Phil Taylor – I spoke to him this morning and I said how amazing it is that he’s done it for 16 years, and he was just telling me: ‘All you have to do is make sure your why is important. Why are you doing it? It’s for your family.’

The 34-year-old is also fuelled by a desire to create a legacy for South African darts – for many, this burden may be too much to bear, although Petersen appears to be thriving with such responsibility.

Despite moving to the UK two years ago, ‘The African Warrior’ has continued to grow the sport through his series of Last Man Standing qualifiers – designed to determine who will partner him at the World Cup of Darts.

In 2019, he and his fellow countryman Vernon Bouwers led South Africa to victory over Northern Ireland at the World Cup – a victory which garnered huge reaction.

Petersen shared a video on social media that went viral among the darting community, showing celebrations from youth players in Mitchell’s Plain when the winning double was landed.

Devon Petersen claimed a 5-2 victory over Peter Wright to dump the world champion out of the Grand Slam of Darts.

They were positively euphoric as they watched their darting hero lead their country to victory, and that is what drives Petersen on. He is not merely a dart player – he is a trailblazer.

“In the end, the sacrifice will be important and hopefully the legacy will continue and carrying Africa on my back as well is one of the most important things in my career.

“I love you guys at Sky Sports and obviously the PDC. Even the likes of meeting my friend and brother Joe Cullen – he’s made me welcome here in the UK. I think I chose the right sport and I’m happy to be here.”

Don’t miss a dart from the Grand Slam of Darts on Sky Sports as the action continues on Saturday – join us from 7pm on Sky Sports Mix and follow us @SkySportsDarts for updates and clips throughout the tournament.


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