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World Darts Championship: Six international qualifiers to watch – Sky Sports

Josh Gorton

Comment & Analysis

The 67-year-old ‘Singapore Slinger’ Paul Lim and 16-year-old debutant Fabian Schmutzler are among the international qualifiers to watch at this year’s World Championship, which gets under way from Wednesday, December 15

Last Updated: 10/12/21 9:47pm

‘The Singapore Slinger’ is the oldest participant in this year’s tournament

The 2022 PDC World Darts Championship gets under way later this week, and it promises to be one of the most fascinating events in the tournament’s glittering history.

World No 1 Gerwyn Price is bidding to retain the coveted Sid Waddell Trophy, while former winners Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright are among the main contenders alongside Jonny Clayton, who boasts four major titles on his resume in 2021.

The headlines have inevitably been dominated by the title favourites, but there is a real international flavour to this year’s showpiece, with a record 30 different countries represented in the 96-player field.

As we continue the countdown to the darting festivities at Alexandra Palace, Sky Sports’ Josh Gorton has picked out a series of potential stories to follow over the coming weeks…

Paul Lim

Lim will make his 26th World Championship appearance this year – his 14th in the PDC

It just wouldn’t be Christmas without Paul Lim! The legendary ‘Singapore Slinger’ is set to make his 26th World Championship appearance this year, as he continues to defy the odds.

The 67-year-old, who made his World Championship debut at Lakeside way back in 1982, came through the Singapore qualifier last month to seal his spot at Alexandra Palace for a fifth consecutive year.

Lim etched his name into the history books by becoming the first player to register a nine-darter at the World Darts Championship back in 1990, and he came agonisingly close to repeating the feat against Gary Anderson in 2018.

The Singapore veteran has claimed some major scalps at the World Cup of Darts over recent years, and he also recovered from 2-0 down to defeat UK Open finalist Luke Humphries in a dramatic first-round clash 12 months ago.

Lim will take on Pro Tour qualifier Joe Murnan in his opener on Friday, December 17, and a tie against world No 10 Nathan Aspinall awaits the winner in round two.

Fabian Schmutzler

The 16-year-old was hoping to draw his darting idol Raymond van Barneveld in round one

There’s a host of prodigious talents coming through the PDC ranks right now, and teenage sensation Fabian Schmutzler is the latest to emerge through the darting conveyor belt.

The 16-year-old German will become the second-youngest participant in PDC World Championship history, behind only Mitchell Clegg – who debuted in the 2007 edition.

Schmutzler remarkably sealed his qualification after finishing in second spot on the European Development Tour, despite being too young to feature in the opening six events.

However, the German schoolboy stormed through the second stage in Niedernhausen, marking his first weekend of Development Tour action with back-to-back titles.

Schmutzler usurps his compatriot Max Hopp in becoming the youngest German to make their World Championship debut, and he will take on world No 2 Peter Wright in the second round, if he can overcome Ryan Meikle in round one.

Ray & Ky Smith

The father and son duo will make darting history at Ally Pally

Ray and Ky Smith will make history when they become the first father and son duo to compete at the same PDC World Championship later this month.

Ray prevailed in the DPA Satellite Tour Finals back in October to secure his Alexandra Palace return, having made his debut in the 2019 edition.

The 41-year-old has also competed on the World Series circuit over recent years, although his 19-year-old son Ky is poised to make his televised debut, courtesy of his Oceanic Masters win.

The Queenslander came through a field of 82 players to triumph with victory over fellow youngster Bailey Marsh in the final, averaging 94.26 en route to an emphatic 6-2 success.

Ky will play Dutchman Maik Kuivenhoven for the right to meet fourth seed James Wade in round two, while Ray has been pitted against former BDO No 1 Jamie Hughes, with Devon Petersen awaiting the winner.

Florian Hempel

Hempel made his mark with victory over Snakebite on his PDC televised debut

Gerwyn Price isn’t the only PDC Tour Card holder who has enjoyed success in multiple sporting fields. Step forward Florian Hempel – one of 18 debutants at this year’s World Championship.

The 31-year-old originally made his name as a handball goalkeeper, plying his trade for Dessau-Rosslauer HV and then Longericher Sport Club for almost a decade in the Handball-Bundesliga.

Hempel cited injuries as his reason for swapping handball for the oche in 2017 and having made his PDC European Tour debut in 2019, he successfully navigated his way through Qualifying School earlier this year.

Despite featuring in just 18 of the 30 Players Championship events in 2021, he was among the decorated list of Pro Tour qualifiers to seal their Alexandra Palace spots, boasting an impressive seasonal average of 94.31 – ranking him 31st on the Pro Tour in that regard.

Hempel produced a classy display to stun world No 2 Wright on his PDC televised debut at October’s European Championship, and he’s set to take on his resurgent compatriot Martin Schindler in arguably the tie of the opening round.

Rusty-Jake Rodriguez

Rusty-Jake underlined his talent with some impressive displays on his Grand Slam debut last month

What a year it has been for young Rusty-Jake Rodriguez. The diminutive Austrian has dominated the European Development Tour in 2021, scooping five titles to earn a PDC Tour Card for the 2022 season.

The 20-year-old has produced a series of magnificent displays throughout the last 12 months, and it is testament to his quality that he’s secured World Championship qualification via the Pro Tour, despite not currently holding a Tour Card.

Rodriguez has already featured in three major televised tournaments in 2021 and he displayed glimpses of his class at last month’s Grand Slam of Darts, impressing in narrow group-stage defeats to Jonny Clayton and Mervyn King.

Rusty-Jake will be joined at Ally Pally by his older brother Rowby-John, but the Rodriguez representation doesn’t end there. Roxy-James is the oldest of the quartet, with 15-year-old Ridgy-Jorg yet to feature on the PDC circuit.

Rusty-Jake – a JDC world champion in 2017 – will make his debut against New Zealand’s Ben Robb, and the winner will play 30th seed Chris Dobey, with a potential showdown against Michael van Gerwen in prospect in round three.

It’s not long to wait until the darts returns to your screens and it’s the World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace – join us on Sky Sports for every arrow from every session across 16 days which gets under way on Wednesday, December 15.

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