Justin Smith – Player Interview
Date of Interview: 26/02/2020
Q: Justin, good afternoon, we really appreciate you giving us your time today answering these questions, not that we imagine you would be out doing much else with the current pandemic ha! Can you believe that 5 full months have already passed since announcing that you had signed for us? Sometimes it’s hard for us to decide who to sponsor, but we knew that you would fit in with our team especially knowing your full capabilities on the dartboard.
J: Thanks, the time has gone really quickly & I’ve really enjoyed working together so far.
Q: How did you first get in to darts?
J: I was first introduced to darts when I was around 8 years old. My mums partner was always playing darts & he was one of the best in our local area which highly influenced my decision to follow his footsteps.
Q: Do you remember what your first set of darts was & where did you get them from?
J: My first set of darts, was one of those cheap sets that you can buy and I remember that they were purchased from Sports Direct. As my interest grew, I realised the downsides of brass as a material for darts, so I picked up a set of James Wade tungsten darts because he was my favourite player at the time.
Q: During lockdown we know you have played in some of the modus icons of darts events, the last of the challenge tour/development tour events for 2020 & some of these haven’t gone your way reults wise. With less darts events being played this is bound to have an effect on your game, but how do you keep yourself motivated to practice at home? What kind of practice routines might you go through, if any on a typical day and how long for?
J: I do have quite a few different practice routines but my main one is out shots focusing on the 2/3 dart combinations between 61 and 101. Otherwise I’ll just spend some time throwing for the trebles, throwing for some bullseyes and generally trying to improve my accuracy with what I’m going for.
Q: What is your favourite checkout?
J: There are two doubles on the board which are my favourite; Double 16 (it just feels so natural to throw at) and double 18 so any combinations or high checkouts I would always try to mix those in where I can. The fact I like double 18 is quite odd, because if I come inside the wire and hit big 18 I would never go to the double 9 I would always try to split it. Of course if I had one dart in hand this would be different!
Q: You qualified for the UK darts open last March at Butlins Minehead, how did it feel to play in such a prestigious tournament? We were there in the fan zone, with IdartUK (dartslive machines) having never been to the event before & couldn’t get over the atmosphere, especially in the main arena. You played Andy Jenkins in the first round managing to get through winning 6-3 but what happened in the second round?. 2021 qualifiers were determined by Qualifying school rankings so that puts you out this year, but we are confident that you will bounce back next year and all the other players better look out!
J: It was just such an amazing atmosphere and I’d always dreamed of playing in a major tournament so the fact I was actually playing in one seemed a little surreal and the best feeling of my darting life so far. In the first round I played Andy Jenkins on stage 8 and managed to beat him 6-3, it was fairly nervy with people in the background but I was very pleased with that result. In the second round I played Wesley Harms, managing to pull back to 5-5 from 5-2 down but unfortunately the last leg went his way. I loved every minute of playing though!
Q: Q school for 2021 didn’t quite go as planned, we know you were looking forward to it, so what happened?
J: It’s difficult to explain because I felt fairly confident going into Q school having practiced extremely hard, putting many hours in after work and on the weekends. Over the 4 days, nothing went right, I did miss a couple of doubles at crucial times, but I’m determined to do well in the challenge tour this year.
Q: Have you ever hit a 9 dart finish? If not, how close have you come to hitting it? (10 darter?)
J: I’ve hit 2, but they have both been in practice, never in a game.
Q: You’ve never represented your county (Ceredigion) playing darts, why’s that?
J: I don’t really have an answer to this question, other than it not being something that really interested me in the past. Playing competitive darts in any means is great practice so perhaps I will look into it in the future.
Q: You are only 23 so hopefully you’ve got a lengthily career in front of you. What would be your ultimate darting achievement?
J: Despite Q school not going to plan, I know doing well in the Challenge tour is something that can present an opportunity to gain a tour card and this is my main focus currently. In progression terms, if I was to gain a tour card, it would be reaching the top 64 in the world and then it would be becoming world champion. Still plenty of time for me to achieve these goals.
Q: Which dart players do you look up to (famous or otherwise) and why?
J: I look up to all of them. The likes of Barneveld, Taylor etc. have done wonders for the sport forming it into what it is today.
Q: Having Quantum Darts backing you must be a great feeling from your perspective. You’ve got a sponsor who will always do their best to provide for you with whatever you need & you can just focus on playing. Would you agree with that?
J: Of course, I’d agree with that, it gives me some peace of mind knowing I have full support.
Q: When we had the chance to catch up with Linda Ithurralde previously she said:
“The first thing is you have to enjoy the game. Experience/knowledge work alongside each other with the skill that comes from dedication and practice. You must always believe in yourself!”
These are some really powerful words, coming from someone who has been involved with and influenced the game of darts for many years. To us it’s obvious that you believe in your own ability otherwise you wouldn’t enter the events that you do and you’ve already mentioned your practice, but how much do you enjoy playing? This seems to be the fundamental element to success!
J: Everything I do in my life at the moment revolves around darts, it brings me happiness and If I’m honest, I couldn’t imagine my life without it.
Q: You’ve played on the development tour for several years, but now you have to stop due to the capped maximum age for the event. If we consider the JDC (junior darts corporation) events for a moment, what are your thoughts on this system where it allows the youth players to be involved at an early age? Do you think playing competitively as a youth player prepares them better for later on, where they themselves may go on to play in professional events?
J: Steve Brown has done a fantastic job with the JDC, bringing all these youth players through. Like you said it prepares them well for what’s to come in the following years.
Q: Do you have a bogey player, who you have never beaten?
J: Yes, I think I’ve played Adam Hunt & Luke humphries both 4 times on the tour and never beaten them. I had chances but always missed the doubles!
Q: If you weren’t playing darts what other sports/hobbies do you think you would be involved with taking up your spare time?
J: I used to play football regularly so more than likely I would have kept this going. I gave though because if I picked up an injury it would hinder my darts.
Q: Over the last few months it’s been a pleasure working with you to create a custom dart that caters for your grip & throwing style. We’ve tried several different styles of grip, tapered rear, longer barrel length etc. but settled with something quite close to your original set in the end, taking on board some of your comments to enhance the barrel for your grip requirements. Granted, this has been a little more difficult than it should have been because of lockdown/travel restrictions, but are you happy with the end result?
(Above – Concept darts/Prototype darts to final design L-R)
J: I am over the moon with the final result of my darts and I’ve been using them as my main darts recently. The back end of the dart was my main concern but I’m very happy with how it has turned out.
Q: Due to your dominant gripping position being right on that rear section it was imperative that it was correct and the level of grip enough for you to locate your fingers on but not hinder your release when you throw the dart. For those reading this you can see exactly what we mean in the following images:
Q: Justin thanks for your time today.
J: No problem at all, hope you have a good day!