Switchers: Darts Proves A Welcome Home for Sporting Career Changers

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Louis Rees-Zammit announced earlier this month that he was leaving the Rugby Union to pursue a career in the NFL.

Welsh star, Rees-Zammit is not the first and is unlikely to be the last athlete to pursue a fresh sport. Darts has also lent itself to a few successful sports persons to enjoy or pursue on a more serious basis.

One of the earliest ‘switchers’ was Bob Anderson. The 1988 World Champion was a highly rated javelin thrower, on course for the Olympic games, when injury forced him to abandon an athletic career.

Bob Anderson during the 2022 World Seniors Darts Championship . Bob had swapped projectile back in the 1970s!

Justin Pipe was cage fighter prior to tussling with the tungsten. And of course we have another famous sports switcher…

So how have other sports people performed when making a switch?

AthleteOriginal SportNew SportYear Athlete Changed SportAchievements in New Sport
Hatem Ben ArfaFootballPadel Tennis2022– Won 70 tournaments- Ranked in top 1,500 out of 42,000
Gerwyn PriceRugby UnionDarts2014– World Championship Winner 2021- World Grand Prix Winner 2020- Grand Slam Winner 2018, 2019, 2021- World Series Final Winner 2020, 2022
Sarah StoreySwimmingCycling2005– 3 x European Champion- 23 x World Champion- 6 x British National Track Champion
Petr CechFootballIce Hockey2019– Treble with Guildford Phoenix
Paulo MaldiniFootballTennis2017– Qualified for the Aspria Tennis Cup- Played at the ATP Challenger Tour
Fabien BarthezFootballMotorsport2008– Raced in Le Mans 3 times- French GT Champion 2013- 7 Race Wins- 30 Podiums- 6 Pole Positions- 1 Fastest Lap
Rebecca RomeroRowingCycling2006– Gold 3km Pursuit Manchester World Championship 2008- Gold Team Pursuit Manchester World Championship 2008- Gold Individual Pursuit Beijing Summer Olympics 2008- UK Time Trial Champion 2006- UK 3km Pursuit Champion 2007
Victoria PendletonCyclingHorseracing2015– Victory on Pacha du Polder at Wincanton 2016- 2nd Place on Royal Etiquette at Ripon 2015- 5th in Foxhunter Chase on Pacha du Polder at Cheltenham 2016
Sir Chris HoyCyclingMotorsport2013– Raced in Le Mans in 2016- 5 Race wins- 19 Podiums

Ben Arfa – Football to Padel Tennis

Although Ben Arfa hasn’t officially retired, the Frenchman has been without a club since leaving Lille in the summer of 2022. Since then, the former Premier League player has taken up the growing sport of padel tennis, winning a total of 70 tournaments. His dedication to his new sport has earned him a place in the top 1,500 world rankings. 

Gerwyn Price – Rugby Union to Darts

You may know Gerwyn Price as one of the best darts players in the world, winning multiple world titles. However, he began his sporting career as a professional rugby union and rugby league player. Price played for several different teams in the rugby league and the Welsh Premier Division and even won the WRU Challenge Cup in the 2011/12 season, scoring a try in the final. Price retired in 2014 to focus on darts.

Sarah Storey – Swimming to Cycling

After winning more than 30 medals in various competitions as a swimmer, paralympic athlete Sarah Storey made the decision to switch to cycling. Storey became a 23-time world champion, six-time British Track Champion, and three-time European Champion, setting 11 world records between 2005 and 2015. 

Further Study Insights: 

  • Petr Cech switched from Football to Ice Hockey in 2019, Cech’s goalkeeper skills were clearly transferable as he earned the man of the match award in his Ice Hockey debut. 
  • Paulo Maldini swapped Football for Tennis in 2017, Despite spending the majority of his football career winning trophies and keeping clean sheets, his tennis career would not prove to be as successful.
  • From Football to Motorsport, Fabian Barthez changed sports in 2008, The former French international would go on to win seven races, stand on 30 podiums, and race in Le Mans three times before ending his racing career in 2022.
  • Rebecca Romero’s switch from rowing to cycling was one of our list’s most successful sport swaps. She became the first British woman to compete at the Olympics in two different sports and only the second woman worldwide to win a medal at two different summer Olympics. 
  • Victoria Pendleton switched from cycling to horseracing in 2015, her achievements include Victory on Pacha du Polder at Wincanton 2016, 2nd Place on Royal Etiquette at Ripon 2015 and 5th in Foxhunter Chase on Pacha du Polder at Cheltenham 2016. 
  • Chris Hoy swapped Cycling for Motorsport in 2013. Hoy has raced in several different classes during his motorsport career including the 2016 edition of Le Mans. He has won five races and stood on the podium 19 times.

The team at Genting took a look at nine sports stars who traded their sport for a new one and produced the highlights table above.

In addition to those above both Adrian Lewis and Nathan Aspinall were talented football goalkeepers with potential to go far.

The DW coach and analyst AIM180 suggest that darts makes a good home for other sports men (and possibly women) due to their experience and understanding of what it takes to succeed:

The notion of training and playing sport in order to earn a living, and especially when it carries a physical risk, and the dedication, applicational and focus required to reach high levels is definitely transferable. Routines, regimens, progression and sacrifice are already part of their make up.

Add in that many are from contact sports and understand the psychology of intimidation and one-on-one battles and the path to success is certainly familiar to them and they are not easily distracted. I look forward to more and more such backstories over time.


Data and original piece: Genting

Additional Editorial: JR Lott

Images: PDC ( Main) In text : WSDT/Chris Sargeant

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