Luke Humphries credits his massive weight loss for his blistering form over the last two years as he heads to Paddy Power World Darts Championship as the favourite for glory.
Cool Hand, who begins his campaign in the second round tonight (Sunday) made a conscious decision to shed the pounds during the sport’s pandemic-enforced hiatus. In total, he lost around four-and-a-half stone and has reaped the benefits since life returned to normal.
Humphries went to make the final of the 2021 UK Open then grab a string of European Tour titles in 2022. This year has seen him join the elite of the sport, winning not just one major but three – the World Grand Prix, Grand Slam and Players Championship Finals.
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“During Covid, when most of us were at home all the time doing nothing, I could have gone one of two ways,” he tells assembled media, including Daily Star Sport. “I could have put more weight on because of boredom. It was going to be about six months before we were back playing properly so I had that time to lose weight.
“When you’re a darts player, it’s sometimes hard to eat healthily. If you’re playing at 8 o’clock, you don’t want a full meal before then and be bloated. Then, when you finish, there’s nowhere healthy open at 10 o’clock at night.
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“I had six months where I didn’t have to worry about that. I did the exercise bike for about half-an-hour a day and then it was just eating clean and healthily while still practising. I felt better in myself but I didn’t feel any different with my throw. Everything felt the same.
“A lot of players have lost a lot of weight and it’s impacted them negatively, performance-wise. Maybe that’s done through losing too much weight and not practising through it.
“When you’re losing 4lb a week while practising, your body doesn’t really notice the changes. If I’d lost 4st and not thrown a dart during that period, it would have been different.
“I worked really hard to do it and have managed to keep it off. I rarely eat takeaways now. If I do it’s from decent places like Nando’s. I just maintain it and look after myself.”
The 28-year-old from Berkshire reckons his improved fitness and slimmer frame have boosted his endurance in matches and tournaments, with the Worlds being by far the longest.
“Being a bit fitter and healthier helps with longer days,” he says. "I never used to be able to get to those quarter and semi-finals because I’d run out of energy. I’m doing them at a canter now. Losing that weight is a key part of where I am.
“When we came back [in 2021], we had the UK Open and I made the final. That’s what I needed at the time, a big run in a major tournament to get me going, and it did.”
Having not seen many of his friends and rivals for an extended period because of the pandemic, Humphries' slimmer frame shocked a few people. He explains: “I never made a big deal about it, I never told anybody that I was going to lose weight, just my mum and dad because I lived at home with them.
“I’d lost a couple of stone by then and people were like ‘wow, you look a lot different’. Three or four months later, I’d lost even more weight so it was a shock to a few people. But I wanted to do for myself, not for any publicity.”
Having finally won his first major, comparisons have naturally been made between Humphries and Michael Smith, who ended his quest for a big TV title at the 2022 Grand Slam before storming to glory at Ally Pally.
“A lot of people have compared us,” adds Humphries, who reckons his major successes will help him massively as he attempts to get his hands on the Sid Waddell Trophy.
“We’ve been similar players over our careers. Michael made it to the top four, then went down a bit, then shot up again, won his first major, then went on to win the World Championship.
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“I feel it’s hard to just go and win a World Championship, I feel you need a major title to go on and win it, to give you that belief. If you reach a world final [without winning a major], you haven’t got that memory of winning a big final.
“Now I’ve got that, everything changes. Michael said it himself, if he hadn’t won that Grand Slam he doesn’t think he’d have won that world title. If I do go on and win the world title this year, which is a big ask, I’ll put it down to winning the Grand Prix because it was a massive moment in my career.
“I feel good, I’ve played really well this year and I’m really looking forward to the World Championship. But there are no guarantees I’m going to go there and win. It’s so cutthroat with loads of potential winners.”
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