Darts colossus gives up 30 lagers a day for Olympics

'The Viking' is serious about London 2012: so it's three pints of spritzer daily
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The Independent Online

Fordham, with dozens of his fellow professional darts players, is embarking on a fitness regime unprecedented in the history of the "arrows" in a campaign to score the biggest prize in the history of the game: being admitted as an Olympic sport for London 2012.

After years of only breaking sweat under the searing heat of the television lights, and perhaps sometimes before the first snifter of the day, Britain's leading players are launching their effort to have darts included when the Olympics come to London. Supporters say it deserves recognition because it is played by an estimated seven million, which makes it more popular than football.

The British Darts Organisation (BDO) insists players should be considered serious sportsmen. Darts, it says, is highly complex and requires phenomenal stamina from players.

The BDO is lobbying hard for a berth at the Games. Roger Holmes, the spokesman, said: "Geoff Capes is not the smallest man in the world but he won Olympic gold. Watch this space; we are firing on all cylinders. The British are the best in the world at darts; it began in Britain and deserves to be part of the Olympics."

Sid Waddell, the darts commentator, said: "It is a skilled and complex sport that deserves serious recognition. I know dartsmen who have played for two hours and cried from the pain caused by acid build-up in the arm. We are the best darts nation in the world because members of the Professional Darts Corporation play each other almost every night.

"The game dates from the 13th century when British archers developed hand darts. The middle classes thought it was a game played by undesirables, but then they joined in. Today, fit young people play it."

Not everybody has found the adjustment easy. Since swapping beer for spritzers, Fordham has dropped three stones to 27 stone. But his form has gone. He crashed out of the World Professional Darts Championships at Lakeside Leisure Complex in Frimley Green, Surrey, despite training every day.

Fordham, 43, who was forced to quit last year's World Championships after fainting from heat exhaustion, said: "I am determined to keep off the weight until we make it to the Olympics. It's a new lifestyle. I can't completely cut out the booze because I get nervous before a match and need a drink to calm the nerves. I know we would trash any other country at darts if we got into the Olympics. Darts is not just about throwing arrows and hoping for the best. It's a highly skilled game that we have to play under intense heat of lights; you need serious stamina."

Martin Adams, the England darts team captain, was wired to a pedometer during last year's week-long tournament, clocking up 25km while playing. The result, in a 26-page document entitled Why Darts Should Be Recognised as a Sport, helped to convince Sport England to award the game sport status last June.

Adams said: "I might smoke and I might drink but what has that got to do with anything? Not all darts players are fat and lazy. The young ones are a new generation that does not drink before a match. They are extremely fit and competitive. Darts is now officially a sport, so let's get it into the Olympics."

The popularity of the game has soared of late, with television duo Ant and Dec hosting a remake of the Eighties cult show Bullseye. Tomb Raider star Angelina Jolie is addicted to the American version and, during the filming of Alexander, she popped in to her local, the Stag, in Wexham, Buckinghamshire, for a round with co-star Colin Farrell.

An IOC spokesman said: "Karate, roller-blading and squash are recognised sports, but darts is not even up there with them. But never say never; that is too final. Where there's a will there is a way."