Peter Wright: How Snakebite's journey to becoming world darts champion could have been 'written in the stars'

Peter Wright celebrates becoming world champion with his family
Peter Wright celebrates becoming world champion with his family

Peter Wright isn't a believer in fate but the new world darts champion can understand why some say his Ally Pally heroics may have been "written in the stars".

On New Year's Day, the 49-year-old defeated Michael van Gerwen to finally fulfil a career resolution he'd made way back when it all began - that he'd win the world title before he was 50.

To achieve this with just three months to spare completes a quite incredible story that may have been rendered too unrealistic for sporting film-makers had a Snakebite motion picture ever been proposed in the early 1990s.

Of course back then, his on-stage persona that darts fans know and love today was the best part of half his life away while he probably visualised himself reaching the pinnacle of the sport in the setting of the Lakeside Country Club, where he made his BDO World Championship debut as a 24-year-old back in 1995.

The Scotsman lost that match 3-1 to eventual winner Richie Burnett and never returned, turning his back on the professional game and instead spent the next 12 years bouncing between odd jobs - from tyre fitting to pushing trolleys in Morrisons - to earn his crust as well as playing darts in local leagues.

After Wright's wife Joanne, who is responsible for styling his hair, talked him into relaunching himself as professional darts player after watching the 2007 Grand Slam of Darts on TV, he slowly but surely started climbing the rankings and two years later qualified for the 2010 World Championship, where he'd lose, almost poetically, to a title-less van Gerwen in the first round.

Despite continued improvement over the next few seasons, which helped him qualify for all the big majors, represent Scotland in the World Cup and win Pro Tour titles in both 2012 and 2013, Wright was becoming disillusion again and seriously considered quitting the sport as he prepared for his fifth successive World Championship.

A string of inspired performances saw him reach the final and although he'd lose 7-4 to van Gerwen, who celebrated his first world title, it was a run that would establish his status as one of the game's elite top 10 players.

Over the course of the next six years he'd become one of the most popular and recognisable figures in the sport thanks to winning another 25 titles, reach 12 more major finals and deservedly earn selection for all the Premier League seasons - although his hairstyles and image helped.

But while van Gerwen was notching up 38 additional majors in this same timespan to take his incredible tally of individual TV titles to 50, the only one Wright could win was the 2017 UK Open, where the Dutchman wasn't participating due to injury.

The gap was exacerbated by nine of Wright's 12 final defeats coming against MVG and three of those in deciding legs, with Snakebite agonisingly missing six match darts in the climax of the 2017 Premier League Darts and a further three in the 2019 Champions League.

Despite suffering battle scar after battle scar, Wright would continually pledge "I'll get him next time" and was never afraid of coming up against his nemesis yet again. Only this time, he ensured his lead was too big to blow.

The new world number two told Sporting Life Darts: "I really wanted to play and beat Michael van Gerwen in the final - it wouldn't have meant the same otherwise. Considering the amount of times I've lost games to Michael by letting him, it was great to finally do it against him rather than anyone else.

"I said to myself before the game that I was going to win 7-3 or 7-4 so I got that prediction pretty much right! When I stepped up for those three match darts I didn't think about how far I was ahead - just that I had to make them count."

His success brought a history-making 16 days, which will be remembered for Fallon Sherrock dominating nearly all of the global headlines with her astonishing victories against Ted Evetts and Mensur Suljovic, to a storybook conclusion by becoming the oldest first-time champion of this tournament, eclipsing when Gary Anderson triumphed aged 44.

But rather than see this as a closure on all the well-publicised sacrifices and hard work that made this moment possible, he has no intention of retiring with just one title to his name and believes there's more chapters of glory to be penned.

Wright, who also wants to topple MVG as world number one, said: "At least I won my first before 50, that was the plan. Now with one in the bag, let's see if I can win another four at least before I retire.

"You don't know how long your form is going to last or how long you can keep playing at this level for - and there's that many good players around, it's very difficult to stay at the top.

"This could really open the floodgates - I think there's more titles in the pipeline and I'll be up for every tournament as much as ever."

Tinkerman's decision to stick pays off

Another facet to this remarkable story is how Wright reached the pinnacle of the sport the moment he finally stuck with a set of darts - and they were so good he'd bullishly predicted it.

Apart from his hairstyle and flamboyant clothing, Snakebite is well known for tinkering with his darts at every opportunity - occasionally even between matches - whether it's to cope with varying different temperatures, arena atmospheres or the pressure he's feeling against certain opponents.

However, his latest set of darts from Red Dragon gave him a newfound confidence after using them just a couple of weeks before the tournament began.

Wright revealed he had even sent them a text message saying "Thank you for making me the darts that will win me the world champs" and sure enough Red Dragon has since shared that message on social media.

Darts from the heavens

If you thought all Wright's years of building up to this perfectly timed crowning moment - from the problems and heartache to the perseverance and transformations - was perfectly scripted enough, then how about his moment of magic which may even tempt atheists of the Sporting Gods to rethink their stance.

On the brink of a second-round defeat for the third year in a row, he required 302 in six darts and did just that with three treble 18s followed by a stunning 140 checkout with his opponent Noel Malicdem waiting on 42 for the match having just missed the bullseye for victory.

After surviving that scare he still had plenty of work but he produced more nerveless magic to win a sudden-death leg on a night that'll be etched in darting folklore forever more.

He joked: "It must have been written in the stars!

"Although that match did go all the way to sudden death, which everyone forgets, and there was plenty of work still to do. I hit the bullseye to have the darts then kicked it off with a 180 - so for me to get through that match was crazy.

"I'd gone out first round the year before and was sat at home watching MVG winning it, so I didn't want to go through that again."

Wright then battled past Seigo Asada and survived a stirring comeback from Jeffrey de Zwaan, who trailed 2-0 in the fourth set after losing the first three, to win 4-3, before recording a personal best world championship average of 105.86 as well as firing in a 170 checkout against Luke Humphries.

The Scotsman, who resides in Suffolk, took his incredible tally of 100+ checkouts to 15 during a bad-tempered 6-3 win over Gerwyn Price but after making up rather comically on WhatsApp he turned his attentions on his date with destiny.

And he took no shortage of satisfaction from beating both of the world's 'big two' to lift the Sid Waddell Trophy and pocket £500,000.

Much of the pre-tournament talk had been about a potential dream final between the defending champion and Price, who had thrashed Wright in the recent Grand Slam of Darts final.

But the new world number two's last six months had also been impressive having won four titles and also lifting the World Cup of Darts for Scotland with Gary Anderson while he also recorded the highest average for a broadcast match of 123.4 during a Players Championship event.

"I sneaked along off the radar and nobody noticed - but I don't know why!"

So does he really think higher forces were at work behind his success? "No. You've got to make your own dreams, future and fate with an incredible amount of hard work behind the scenes."

Snakebite's family are his biggest sources of inspiration and support behind the scenes and he's always quick to pay them equal credit. He said: "It's a team effort that makes it happen - my family have been there for me in the past when it's not gone so well and picked me up again. They help me get back on the practice board, forget about the defeats and focus on the next game and tournament."

This year 'Team Snakebite' can focus on each one of those on top of the darting world.

Scroll down for tournament stats

Peter Wright celebrates becoming world champion with his family
Peter Wright celebrates becoming world champion with his family

FINAL STATS: Michael van Gerwen 3-7 Peter Wright

Averages

  • MVG: 102.88
  • Wright: 102.79

180s

  • MVG: 16
  • Wright: 11

Doubles

  • MVG: 18/45 (40%)
  • Wright: 24/45 (53.3%)

100+ Checkouts

  • MVG: 128, 124
  • Wright: 140

Click for leg-by-leg report and highlights

TOURNAMENT STATISTICS (MVG first)

  • Average: 99.29 - 99.18
  • Best Ave: 104.09 (v Bunting) - 105.86 (v Humphries)
  • 180s: 43 - 68
  • 100+ checkouts: 11 - 16
  • Highest checkout: 170 - 170
  • Doubles: 92/215 (42.79%) - 115/250 (44.39%)
  • Legs won/lost: 92/71 - 115/88

ROUTES TO THE FINAL

Michael van Gerwen

Peter Wright

Career Highlights

  • Michael van Gerwen: 3x World Champion (2014, 2017, 2019), 2x World Matchplay champion (2015, 2016), 5x Premier League champion (2013, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019), 5x World Grand Prix champion (2012, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2019), 2x UK Open champion (2015, 2016), 3x Grand Slam of Darts champion (2015, 2016, 2017), 4x European champion (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017), 5x Masters champion (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019), 5x Players Championship Finals champion ( 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019), 4x World Series of Darts Finals winner (2015, 2016, 2017, 2019), 3x World Cup winner (2014, 2017, 2018) & 11 televised World Series titles.
    Career PDC titles: 133 (TV: 53)
    Majors PDC Titles/Finals: 39/50
    Titles this season: 14 (TV: 8)
  • Peter Wright: World champion (2020), UK Open champion (2017), World Championship runner-up (2014), Premier League runner-up (2017), World Matchplay runner-up (2017), World Cup winner (2019) 26 non-major PDC titles including Melbourne Darts Masters (2018) and German Darts Masters (2017, 2019). Fourth player to win 10 PDC tournaments in a calendar year (2017)
    Career PDC titles: 28 (TV: 6)
    Majors PDC Titles/Finals: 2/15
    Titles this season: 5 (TV: 2)

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