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Join the bunch of old darts

LOTS of good darts players have what sure look like beer bellies, though some say the weight helps the throw. But what a really good darts player needs is a strong mind, writes Sam Riley

Andy Ge taps his belly and admits his sport isn't a great one for losing weight. The Shanghai darts enthusiast jokes that since he took up the sport, which some regard more as a pastime, he has seen his waistline expand along with his proficiency as a darts player.

Shanghai has a fast-growing band of darts fans, with more than 600 players competing for about 30 teams in Shanghai.

The Stockvis Tapes Shanghai Darts League was established in 1996 with just eight teams and its membership is now half and half, Chinese and expat.

"The sport has really grown over the last couple of years and a lot more people now know about darts," Ge says.

Ge, who is also the league's vice president, says that playing darts is more than just a way to pass time while enjoying a beer with friends.

"To be a good darts player you have to develop your mental strength, not just work on your technique with your arm or wrist," he says.

"If you have a strong mind then you will throw the good darts."

The best players can close out games under pressure and do not focus on their opponent but rather on each single dart and the throw required, says Ge.

"When beginners start, they try and practice on the position of their arms and elbows and wrist and try to think about how they can throw out the dart. But actually that is not quite right because the most important thing is to develop a strong mind and self belief.

"Most novices are afraid they will lose when they get into a winning situation and their hand starts shaking. So at this moment you have to forget the result and only remember what you have practiced."

While Shanghai's league caters to both the social and serious player, it has produced a number of top darts exponents.

Shanghai is well represented in national competitions with two people ranked in the top eight nationally. Lu Weikang and Du Gang both have a chance to garner one of three places to represent China at the annual world darts championships in London.

The Shanghai Darts League also has 80 women players and last year Cai Jing won the National "Hard Tips" title.

Ge started playing darts eight years ago and he jokes he has been developing his darts "physique" through training at the variety of bars where league games are held.

"When I started playing darts I weighed 45 kilograms, now I weigh 75 kilograms," he jokes.

"Darts is a sport where sometimes the fat guys will throw the good darts because they have more stability and don't move their body when throwing the dart. We joke that while we might never be a professional darts player, we can develop to the size of a professional darts player."

Various teams are regularly looking for new players and no experience is necessary.

The league plays every Tuesday night at about 16 venues around the city, with competitions usually starting around 8pm and finishing at about 10:30pm.

Teams range from a minimum of six players to as many as 14.

During league competitions, teams play four different types of games designed to test the skills of the players.

Competitors will try their hand at a doubles "1001" competition where a team counts down from 1001 by scoring on throws and must finish by throwing a double. A singles "501" version is then played followed by a doubles "801" and another darts game called "Mickey Mouse."

The object of this game is to "close" all of a team's numbers (20 down through 12, any three doubles, any three triples and bulls-eye). To close a number, a competitor must hit three of that number.

For more information on the darts league, contact individual team captains. Or contact bar managers at the venues.

Contact Andy Ge at 138-1631-0596


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