Michael Smith admits he is still riding the crest of a wave following his Cazoo World Darts Championship triumph at Alexandra Palace last week.
Smith fulfilled his darting destiny with a famous 7-4 victory over Michael van Gerwen on January 3, which saw him become World Champion and world number one for the first time in his career.
The St Helens star also produced an astonishing nine-dart finish during the second set – in a leg dubbed the greatest of all-time – after Van Gerwen missed double 12 for a nine-darter in the same leg.
Smith’s success has generated global headlines, with NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal among those taking inspiration from the World Champion, by showcasing his darting prowess on prime-time US sports show ‘Inside The NBA’.
— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) January 6, 2023
Smith also appeared as a guest on TV talk-show ‘The MMA Hour’, hosted by renowned MMA journalist Ariel Helwani, to discuss his history-making exploits.
“It is a dream come true, it’s what we all strive for,” admitted Smith, speaking on Monday’s episode of the MMA Hour ahead of his return to action at this week’s Bahrain Darts Masters.
“I’ve always wanted to be World Champion and I’ve always wanted to be world number one, and what better way to do it than on the same night?
“Yesterday morning I had Toni Kroos messaging me saying: ‘Well done, can you answer a few questions for my podcast?’
“Toni Kroos is probably one of the best midfielders in football history. He’s won the World Cup and I don’t know how many Champions League titles. I was just star-struck.
“The people I’ve looked up to and have followed on social media are now following me back, and sending messages congratulating me.
“I still don’t quite realise what I’ve done, but it’s starting to sink in now.”
Smith produced a spectacular display to deny a seemingly irrepressible Van Gerwen at Alexandra Palace, averaging 100.87, landing 22 maximums and converting 47% of his attempts at double to prevail.
However, his nine-dart heroics will go down in sporting history, with Wayne Mardle losing his voice in the Sky Sports commentary box in iconic scenes that went viral on social media.
Mardle called in the nine-darter alongside Stuart Pyke – and their excitement was matched by a trio of Italian commentators on DAZN, who erupted in delight when Smith achieved perfection.
Smith admits he’s not stopped watching back his nine-darter since lifting the coveted Sid Waddell Trophy, and he hopes his victory will provide the catalyst for the explosion of darts across the globe.
“Wayne’s commentary made that moment even more special. That leg will never be beaten,” admitted Smith, who lifted the US Darts Masters title at Madison Square Garden last June.
“I’ve watched the Italian commentary, the Hungarian commentary. There are loads, and I’ve watched them all.
“It just makes it special seeing people’s emotions. I know that’s my job, but to put smiles on people’s faces is even better.
“I think this is the most viewed final we’ve had, and this can only make the game better.
“You can see how big it is in Europe, and hopefully we can make it massive in the States now.”
It has been a whirlwind seven days for Smith, who has experienced an unprecedented demand for interviews and media appearances since scooping the £500,000 top prize in the capital.
He received a hero’s reception when he returned to his hometown of St Helens last week, and the town’s road signs were changed to a message welcoming Smith back home.
— St.Helens R.F.C. (@Saints1890) January 5, 2023
The 32-year-old also visited his beloved St Helens rugby league club last Thursday, where he paraded the Sid Waddell Trophy on the pitch alongside the club’s Betfred Super League, League Leaders’ Shield and Women’s Super League trophies.
“As a kid growing up, that is where I went to watch my heroes play,” admitted Smith, who also saw his cousin, Paige Travis, represent St Helens and England Women this year.
“To finally get there as World Champion and stand with some of the greats that I’ve watched – it was amazing.
“I still go there now with my kids when I have time off, so to be on the pitch with my trophy as well as St Helens’ trophies, that was another dream come true.”