Darts: Lowe strikes blow for the arrow-minded: Guy Hodgson on how the world darts champion is aiming to meet the demands of his target audience

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The Independent Online
AT the end of a week which had not been one of the best for darts, there was a consolation. John Lowe, who claimed the Embassy World Championship on Saturday, is a novelty not just because at the age of 47 he became the oldest winner of the event

Lowe stands apart from many of his rivals by the fact you can leave the local darts league and find someone who has heard of him. He, Jocky Wilson and Eric Bristow, champions when darts had a hold on couch potatoes, strike a chord in the High Street which contrasts with the vast bulk of the treble-20 tribe.

Phil Taylor won the world championship twice and could still wander round a supermarket without the fear of being recognised never mind mobbed. To have in Lowe a champion perceived as such by Joe Public is a reward beyond what darts expected and probably deserved.

The nine days at Frimley Green marked a low in the relations between the British Darts Organisation and some of its players. Sixteen have hitched their throwing arms to the World Darts Council and are threatening a breakaway which would cause a fissure in the sport similar to that in cricket when Kerry Packer employed people to bat and bowl in pyjamas.

The fact that Lowe, who, as chairman of the players organisation, was in the thick of the verbal flak flying at Frimley, could leave that behind him and beat Alan Warriner 6-3 in the final spoke a good deal for for his powers of concentration. To win the tournament was achievement enough, to hold his own in the arguments as well invoked admiration from both sides of the divide.

Lowe, himself, attributed his success on Saturday to experience. It was his eighth final - only he and Bristow have played in all 17 world championships - while Warriner, a 30-year-old psychiatric nurse from Lancaster, was playing in his first. The younger man had looked collected in the players' room beforehand but when he went out into the smoke and noise of the arena, he froze.

Or rather, he melted. 'I knew Alan was nervous as soon as I saw his hands,' Lowe said afterwards, 'they were dripping with sweat.' Warriner concurred: 'I don't think people realise how hot it is out there. With the television lights and the people it's over 100F. I couldn't grip the darts properly.'

The writing was on the huge electronic devices alongside the board proper from the second leg. Warriner had won the first exchange and a 2-0 lead in the opening set might have settled him. Instead, his attempt to check out from five ended when he hit 20 and from then he was snatching his throws just enough to let them stray from the trebles.

Lowe raced to a 5-1 lead and even when Warriner tested his opponent's psyche by winning the next two sets, he remained calm. 'It's a long way from 5-3 to 5-5,' Lowe said, 'and I knew that even if he'd won another set I'd have the darts first, and the advantage, next time.'

He had no need of first throw. Warriner, whose calm had returned with his hopeless position, could not maintain his improvement and went down with the unhappy statistic that he had converted only 14 of 59 attempts at finishing doubles. 'You are influenced by how your opponent is doing. You can get dragged down,' Lowe said. Lowe, who had not sparkled either, ended the match with his third attempt at treble 13.

Lucky for some, and certainly for Lowe whose attempt on a third world championship would have been ended in the quarter-finals if Kevin Spiolek had landed just one of seven attempts on a winning double. Instead he survived to progress to the pounds 30,000 first prize and ensure a busy 12 months. 'I had 150 exhibitions booked for the year even before this,' Lowe said. 'My ambition is to be a good world champion, to be an ambassador for the sport.'

Darts, at the moment, is desperate for that.

EMBASSY WORLD PROFESSIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP (Lakeside Country Club, Frimley Green): Final: J Lowe (Eng) bt A Warriner (Eng) 6-3.

(Photograph omitted)

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