Phil 'The Power' Taylor, 41, was born in Stoke-on-Trent. He has won the world darts championship nine times, has not been beaten in a televised game since July 1999, and is regarded as the most successful darts player of all time. This year he was awarded the MBE in the New Year Honours List. He gained his first world title in 1990 when he beat his mentor Eric Bristow, and this week he is competing in the Skol World Championships as he goes in search of his 10th. He lives in Newcastle-under-Lyme with his wife and four children.
When did you start playing darts,
It was a stroke of luck. I first started when I was 26 because someone was one person short in their team. I played for two years, just messing about in the local league. Then in 1988 I joined the Super League, which was when I met Eric Bristow, and he sponsored me to do all the tournaments. Two years later, I made it as world champion.
Describe a typical training day.
During the year, when I'm not doing major tournaments, I'll go to the gym for about two to three hours in the morning and practise darts in the afternoon. But now, before a major tournament, I will start practising at 10.30 in the morning and play darts through until about 12. Then from one to three, more practising. I'll have another break until about seven before playing for another hour and a half. I've converted my garage. There's a heater, spotlights and my dartboard. It's almost like my office.
For how long before a major event do you put in the extra hours?
Six weeks. It can drive you crackers. I don't take any time off. I am hoping to win again. I used to be mates with Stanley Matthews, and he told me he used to go training at five o'clock every morning. Because if he was training at that time, you weren't, and that is what gave him the edge.
How does a gym benefit you?
Going to the gym helps develop stamina, especially when you reach my age; you need to be fit. Some tournaments are played in one day – you might start at nine o'clock in the morning and it won't end till one o'clock the next morning. You don't need physical strength so much – just mental and physical stamina.
What do you do in the gym?
I will spend half an hour on the treadmill, half an hour cycling, then 40 minutes on the rowing machine. And then about two hours in the Jacuzzi and a little bit of swimming. That's the best bit: the treat.
These training regimes sound like a new development in darts.
Some of the youngsters coming through now are training even harder – it's them buggers that are going to beat me eventually. They're inspiring, really – they're just so dedicated. I was brought up with the other professionals, who used to like a drink and liked to socialise. All of them have gone now. Half of them are bankrupt. These youngsters see an opportunity to make a cracking living. I prefer this kind of lifestyle. I was never that involved in the drinking before. I didn't have enough money, to be honest with you. If you were sponsoring me, giving me £20,000 a year, why should I blow it? If I'm going to get beaten, I'll get beaten giving it the best shot I've got.
Apart from stamina, what is the secret of your success?
It's mostly natural ability. But, as in a lot of sports, a lot of it is in your head – I think about 70 per cent in my case.
How do you develop that?
I don't know. I wish I did, because I could make millions of pounds. It's just some-thing in you, I think, which hates to lose.
Do you follow a diet?
I am on a fat-free diet for most of the year, but before "the worlds", I tend to relax on the diet a bit to concentrate on darts. I will eat porridge, Ryvita, cottage cheese and salads. If you cut the fat out of your diet you feel more energetic, for sure.
What is the hardest part of training?
The worst part for me is that the World Championships happen just after Christmas, so I'm training when my kids are opening their presents on Christmas Day. I allow myself a snowball cocktail, but then it's back to playing darts.
Interview by Manfreda Cavazza The Skol World Championships continue in Purfleet, Essex, to 5 January 2002, broadcast on Sky Sports 2
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