Dart player hits her mark

Cu­pids’ Amy Sprack­lin re­turns from world com­pe­ti­tion

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

Per­haps the best way to de­scribe Cu­pids’ Amy Sprack­lin when it comes to darts is to say she’s a nat­u­ral.

The Grade 11 stu­dent from As­cen­sion Col­le­giate in Bay Roberts is only three years into her bur­geon­ing ca­reer and has al­ready com­peted at the pro­vin­cial and na­tional lev­els. Now, she can count com­pet­ing on the world’s stage as one of her ac­com­plish­ments through the world of darts.

Re­cently, Amy re­turned from Hull, England where she com­peted in the Win­mau World Masters Dart Cham­pi­onships, held Oct. 6-11. It’s con­sid­ered one of the most pres­ti­gious pro­fes­sional dart tour­na­ments in the world.

The only youth com­peti­tor to rep­re­sent Canada this time around, she com­peted in a trio of events — the Grand Slam play­offs, the World Youth Cham­pi­onships and fin­ished with the Masters. “It doesn’t even feel like I went over there,” said Amy. “It feels like a dream. It was pretty cool.” Watch­ing her play, it is easy to see why she has ac­com­plished so much in such a small pe­riod of time. It’s ev­i­dent in the ease at which she hurls the slen­der me­tal ob­ject at the dart­board and the scores she picks up.

Each dart thrown either hits its mark or falls just mil­lime­ters from its in­tended land­ing place. Some shots are er­rant, but they’re a rar­ity.

She says she likes the men­tal side of the game. Amy en­joys think­ing about the next shot and the strat­egy that comes with try­ing to race your op­po­nent to zero.

“You have to have a short mem­ory in darts,” said mother Wanda. “You have to be able to for­get about the bad shots.”

There’s also the con­cen­tra­tion on ev­ery shot.

“I need to think about throw­ing the dart be­cause I snap my wrist and the dart goes ev­ery-

where,” said Amy.

Get­ting over the dou­ble

If a bit of doubt crept into Amy’s head prior to the fi­nal com­pe­ti­tion this year, she could be for­given.

At last year’s quali­fy­ing event, she was faced with hav­ing to dou­ble-out to achieve vic­tory but couldn’t make the shot be­fore her op­po­nent could.

“Head­ing into na­tion­als this year, Amy said she’s go­ing to win,” said Wanda.

This year, the same sce­nario played out only this time, Amy was the one who got the dou­ble-out to win.

What was her mind­set fol­low­ing her vic­tory?

“I made the shot to win,” Amy said, paus­ing. “Then I went and had a sand­wich.

“I guess I was more con­fi­dent this year”

Math is eas­ier

When you reach the higher lev­els of the dart world, the elec­tronic score coun­ters are taken away from com­peti­tors.

That means the ath­letes are re­quired to write their scores on either a chalk­board or a white­board and do the math in their head.

In Hull, if you lost the pre­vi­ous match you were re­quired to score the next game. That meant be­ing able to do math in your head was para­mount.

“You never wanted to mess up some­one’s score,” said Amy of the pres­sures of scor­ing a world com­pe­ti­tion.

As a re­sult of hav­ing to do rapid cal­cu­la­tions dur­ing her matches, Amy’s math skills have im­proved.

“I’ve got­ten bet­ter at do­ing math be­cause of darts,” she said.

Get­ting pre­pared

Prac­tice makes per­fect as they say. That might not prove more true than in the sport of darts.

A reg­u­lar at Rosie O’Grady’s in Mount Pearl, Amy spent count­less hours there pre­par­ing for her in­ter­na­tional de­but. There were also plenty of flicks in her fam­ily’s shed.

Nu­mer­ous sum­mer days were spent per­fect­ing her craft, hon­ing the tech­nique that helped her fin­ish in the top dozen or so com­peti­tors for her age in the world.

“I tried to prac­tice two hours a day,” said Amy. “Some days, I prac­ticed in the morn­ing and the night.”

Just like tele­vi­sion

For some peo­ple, the most ex­po­sure they get to darts is throw­ing a cou­ple of rounds in a friend’s shed on a Satur­day night or watch­ing the Pre­mier League when they can catch it on tele­vi­sion.

The Pre­mier League is a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence from other sports on tele­vi­sion. Its fans are one of a kind and the en­vi­ron­ment can only be de­scribed as rau­cous.

“It was just like you’d see on tele­vi­sion,” said Wanda, de­scrib­ing the en­vi­ron­ment of the youth com­pe­ti­tion.

Whether it is across the pond or on this side of the At­lantic, darts is the same. Com­peti­tors place them­selves the same dis­tance from the board, they’re the same darts and they use the same scor­ing sys­tem.

What isn’t the same is the en­vi­ron­ment. In England, darts is a big deal and the fans treat it as such. They get into ev­ery shot while be­ing loud and bois­ter­ous. “I had to tune out the crowd,” said Amy. Watch­ing a child at the high­est level of their se­lected sport is a thrilling time for par­ents.

“I was more ner­vous watch­ing her com­pete than I usu­ally was,” said Wanda.

“We were re­ally proud of her,” said fa­ther Clyde.

PHOTO BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER/THE COM­PASS

Cu­pids’ Amy Sprack­lin re­cently re­turned from the Win­mau World Masters Dart Cham­pi­onships held in Hull, England Oct. 6-11.

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