Darts has always been a sport that anyone can play. No matter what age, gender or athletic ability, darts is a sport that, with practice, anyone can become pro at. Well, this isn’t entirely true. Wheelchair uses have never been able to play the game on a professional level due to practical reasons. However, this all changed back in 2010, when Russ Strobel sought to include wheelchair bound players into the sport with his groundbreaking invention the Wildfire Dart Frame. On one side of the frame is a regulation board, and on the other side is a lowered board, with the bull 137cm in height, 36cm lower than normal regulations. The dart frame rotates between throws, allowing a wheelchair user to play against a standing player, meaning opponents can contest on a level playing field. After years of campaigning by Russ, the WDF accepted the new revised height of the board for wheelchair users in 2012.
This invention, although a simple concept, has allowed disabled players to take part on a professional level. The World Disability Darts Association was formed shortly after the Wildfire Darts Frame was invented. They held their first event in October of this year and are planning their second tournament next March. The first champion was 41 year old Ricky Chilton from Cornwall. A regular darts player, his run in with bone cancer cost him his left leg. Here is his performance in the final of the World Disability Darts Masters which also displays the effectiveness of the Wildfire Darts Frame.
He told BBC Radio Cornwall “I almost gave up on playing darts because I thought I could never do it again.” Players who played darts before becoming disabled may well struggle to adjust to the change in height and a new throwing style they’re forced to adopt. Chilton said that “It took a bit of getting used to.” Darts is a sport that relies heavily on muscle memory to be able to repeat the same action. Even the smallest adjustment from your normal throwing position can make a huge difference. Try it yourself, stand just six inches closer and throw, although you may think it would be easier, it will take an awful long time to adjust. This highlights the level of skill needed to make the change to throwing from a wheelchair.
The fact that disabled players can play the game is life changing. The profile of the World Disability Darts Association is, at present, relatively small. However, I’m positive that it will grow at a rapid rate. For more information see the official WDDA website.