Humphries on top of the world as Cool Hand reflects on winning the World Championship and rising to the top of the rankings
Luke Humphries admits he’ll “never get bored of the feeling” after he was crowned world darts champion at the Alexandra Palace.
Cool Hand Luke, who also moved to the top of the world rankings for the first time, came from 4-2 down to beat 16-year-old sensation Luke Littler in a captivating final.
And Humphries, who attended Fir Tree and Trinity schools in West Berkshire, said becoming world champion was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
“It feels amazing,” he said.
“It’s an overwhelming feeling. It’s something that you always dream of doing and when you finally do it, you don’t really know what to do with yourself.
“To do it in such a fantastic manner was special as well. From the quarter-finals on, I felt like I didn’t really look like losing – apart from that scare against Luke of course.
“I felt really comfortable up there; they were the most important games of my life, and I was really pleased with how I handled myself.”
Humphries had to contend with the partisan crowd as well as teenage supremo Luke Littler in the final.
The 16-year-old, who was bidding to become just the third debutant to lift the Sid Waddell trophy, hammered former world champions Raymond van Barneveld and Rob Cross and captured the imagination of the country, owing to his teenage spirit and unusual diet of omelettes and pizza.
With a televised crowd of 4.8 million people – smashing the previous record – Littler had a dart at double two to race into a 5-2 lead before Humphries, who averaged 104 and hammered in a staggering 23 maximums, reeled off five unanswered legs to become world champion.
He said: “It was a unique final. If you’d told me I’d be playing Luke Littler in the final, it would have been a surprise.
“You wouldn’t expect a 16-year-old to go out there and achieve what he did – he showed a lot of bottle, determination and skill.
“Mentally it was different final to prepare for, and with the crowd it was tough. I had to play really well and I’m just so glad I did.”
Humphries hit top form at the perfect time, hitting 14 180s and averaging 109 as he whitewashed Scott Williams in the semi-final, but had to endure scares in the earlier rounds in nail-biting matches against Ricardo Pietreczko and Joe Cullen.
German champion Pietreczko established a two leg lead over Humphries while Cullen missed two match darts in an epic deciding leg, with Cool Hand managing to edge through both times.
“If you’d only watched from the quarter-finals, you might have thought I’d had it quite easy, but it wasn’t like that at all,” Humphries said.
“I broke the point of my dart before the Ricardo game and that really got in my head and things weren’t going the way I wanted them to.
“I think the Joe Cullen game was the best game of the tournament. I missed so many chances and had to ride my luck but somehow I made it through.
“It’s important to scrape through those games, as long as you’re still in the competition there’s always a chance.”
Humphries, who has won four of the last five televised titles since October, is set to make his Premier League debut when the prestigious competition gets underway next month.
And, while the 28-year-old will have to deal with a demanding schedule, he is confident he can continue his recent domination of the darting world
“I’ve wanted to become world number one for such a long time – now I’m there, I don’t want to give it up,” he said.
“I think I’ve been the best player over the last two years and I’m hoping I can showcase that in the Premier League. It’s something that I’m really relishing”
Cool Hand Luke, who donated a portion of his £500,000 winnings to Prostate Cancer, spoke openly about his mental health struggles following the final.
Five years ago Humphries was struggling with form and self-belief but transformed his outlook and routine as he began a rise up the rankings, which culminated in a meteoric ascent to the top over the last three months.
He said: “It was important for me to talk about because it hasn’t been plain sailing and I wanted to show people who might be having a hard time that things can get better.
“I used to have a lot of anxiety and panic when I was throwing darts; when you’re battling things in your mind it can feel like an impossible task to go on and achieve your dreams.
“I worked hard to fight through it and it makes it even more special.”
From receiving a box of Greggs sausage rolls in the post to an invitation to meet Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the week since becoming world champion has been a whirlwind for Humphries.
And he’s set to top it off when he returns to his hometown this weekend with a special private event at The Crucible, where he first got into the sport.
“It was a huge privilege to be invited to meet the Prime Minister – fortunately, we discussed darts and not politics,” he said.
“It was a chance to talk about mental health and some other causes that are really important to me. We even threw some darts.
“I’m looking forward to coming back to where it all began and celebrating – I can’t wait.”