World Darts Championship: Former Handball star Florian Hempel making his mark at Alexandra Palace


Josh Gorton

Comment & Analysis

Florian Hempel produced a superb display to oust world No 5 Dimitri Van den Bergh and reach the third round; the former Handball goalkeeper will take on Raymond Smith for a place in the last 16 on debut

Last Updated: 22/12/21 11:20am

Florian Hempel is making his mark on his World Championship debut

Florian Hempel only started playing darts in 2017. Four years later, the new star of German darts is through to the third round on his World Championship debut, having dumped out one of the sport’s biggest names.

Hempel produced a merciless display to stun former World Matchplay champion Dimitri Van den Bergh on Tuesday night, averaging 98.37 and converting 75 per cent of his attempts at double to cause a major upset.

The quality was unrelenting, yet it was the nerveless nature of Hempel’s performance which caught the eye.

Hempel may be a novice in darting terms, but the multi-talented German is no stranger to the rigours of top-level sport.

The 31-year-old initially made his name as a goalkeeper in the Handball-Bundesliga, plying his trade in the German second division for nigh on a decade.

Hempel is also a qualified fitness coach and nutritionist, yet in 2018 he took the plunge and quit his job in pursuit of his darting dreams, making his European Tour debut 12 months later.

He successfully navigated his way through European Qualifying School in February to secure a place on the PDC circuit, yet his momentum was stifled after he missed the UK Open and a series of Pro Tour events due to personal reasons.

Nevertheless, despite featuring in just 18 of the 30 Players Championship events this year, Hempel comfortably sealed World Championship qualification via the Pro Tour Order of Merit, reaching his first ranking semi-final in October.

Florian Hempel reflected on an 'amazing' year on the professional circuit after dumping out Van den Bergh

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Florian Hempel reflected on an ‘amazing’ year on the professional circuit after dumping out Van den Bergh

Florian Hempel reflected on an ‘amazing’ year on the professional circuit after dumping out Van den Bergh

The Cologne-based arrowsmith also recorded a landmark victory over world No 2 Peter Wright on his televised debut in the European Championship earlier that month, underlining his credentials on the big stage.

Hempel will inevitably look to cultivate his own path, but when it comes to transferring your sporting pedigree to the darting arena, world No 1 Gerwyn Price is a source of inspiration.

‘The Iceman’ enjoyed a meteoric rise from rugby professional to world champion within seven years, and it is difficult to assess Hempel’s darting trajectory without drawing obvious comparisons to the Welshman.

Price’s exploits will be extremely tough to emulate, but the early signs are promising for the 31-year-old, who is on course to represent Germany at next year’s World Cup of Darts.

“This tournament is the biggest in the world. I felt comfortable on the stage, I felt comfortable with this crowd. I love it here.”

Hempel delivering on debut…

Hempel’s victory over Van den Bergh has catapulted him above his compatriot Martin Schindler – who he eased past in straight sets in his Ally Pally opener – to become the new German No 2.

The debutant converted three ton-plus finishes to demolish ‘The Wall’ last weekend, but his performance against ‘The Dream Maker’ has forced the darting world to sit up and take notice.

“I have beaten one of the best players in the world – a World Matchplay champion. It was my game. I felt comfortable,” Hempel told Sky Sports.

“I won my Tour Card this year. I couldn’t play in the first half of this year, and now I’m in the third round of the Worlds. It is absolutely amazing.

Florian Hempel produced a masterclass on the outer ring to oust the fifth seed

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Florian Hempel produced a masterclass on the outer ring to oust the fifth seed

Florian Hempel produced a masterclass on the outer ring to oust the fifth seed

“This tournament is the biggest in the world. I felt comfortable on the stage, I felt comfortable with this crowd. I love it here,” he added.

The question is, how far can he go?

Before a dart was thrown, the second quarter of the draw was touted as the most open, and the departures of Van den Bergh and Krzysztof Ratajski have done little to diffuse that theory.

Hempel will return to take on unassuming Australian Raymond Smith after the Christmas break, and the winner will play either 21st seed Mervyn King or unseeded Steve Lennon for a place in the quarter-finals.

Hempel defeated world No 2 Peter Wright on his PDC televised debut in October

Hempel defeated world No 2 Peter Wright on his PDC televised debut in October

Three-time world champion John Part knows what it takes to triumph on the Alexandra Palace stage, and he believes the German’s sporting background makes him a huge threat, despite his relative darting inexperience.

“Florian Hempel, he’s just got a poise,” Part claimed.

“He has got a sporting background already. We don’t know anyone like that who is a world champion or anything!”

“This counts for something. When you know how to comport yourself, and inside of a match, you know how to handle the adversity, if you can deal with that well you give yourself a better chance of overcoming those challenges.

John Part believes debutant Florian Hempel is a 'real threat' at Ally Pally, despite his relative inexperience

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John Part believes debutant Florian Hempel is a ‘real threat’ at Ally Pally, despite his relative inexperience

John Part believes debutant Florian Hempel is a ‘real threat’ at Ally Pally, despite his relative inexperience

“Florian Hempel might be a debutant here this year, but he is no debutant to competing. He is a real threat. I wouldn’t want to face him!”

When it comes to generating compelling sporting stories, darts is almost unparalleled. There is Rob Cross’ rags to riches tale, Gerwyn Price’s ascension from rugby star to world champion, plus Fallon Sherrock’s history-making heroics.

Hempel’s sporting career began in an environment defined by danger and chaos – now the key to his success is centred around composure and control, but as he continues to take Ally Pally by storm, the former handball keeper remains focused on his goal.

Join us for the World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace on Sky Sports Darts across 16 days of action. Check out daily Darts news on skysports.com/darts, our app for mobile devices and our Twitter account @skysportsdarts





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