Luke Humphries: From suffering with anxiety to world champion in five years

Luke Humphries: From Suffering With Anxiety To World Champion In Five Years
Luke Humphries nearly quit darts after suffering from mental health issues, © PA Wire/PA Images
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By Jonathan Veal, PA

When Luke Humphries suffered an anxiety attack midway through a tournament in 2019, he could not have thought five years later he would become world champion.

Humphries was playing in the German Open when he was suddenly immobilised at 5-2 up against James Wade and went on to lose 6-5. It was his darkest moment and he felt so bad he seriously considered quitting the sport he loves.


But it proved a pivotal moment in his career as in the aftermath he chose to speak out about his battle with his mental health.

And that was the start of a journey that came to a memorable climax on Wednesday night when he solidified his position as the new world number one by winning the World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace.

Although he was the villain for ending Luke Littler’s teenage dream of becoming the youngest world champion, few will begrudge the success of Humphries, who is one of the sport’s nice guys.


And the 28-year-old has proved that nice guys do not always finish last as his Ally Pally triumph was a culmination of a stunning few months where he won the World Grand Prix, the Grand Slam of Darts and the Players Championship to establish himself as the best player in the world.

Named Luke by his father as homage to his beloved Leeds (Leeds United Kings of Europe) a career in sport always seemed likely, but for a while it seemed he would follow his dad Mark’s footsteps in becoming a roofer.

Humphries lost nearly four stone in 2020
Humphries lost nearly four stone in 2020 (Tess Derry/PA)


He certainly was not the teenage prodigy that Littler is. Littler came within one win of being the sport’s youngest world champion at the age of 16, while Humphries was the oldest player to win the World Youth Championship when he lifted the title in 2019 aged 24.

That success came in the months after opening up about his anxiety and it was four months after that another turning point came in his life as he decided to make the best out of a bad situation during the coronavirus lockdown in 2020 and shed a huge amount of weight.

When the PDC Tour resumed he was unrecognisable and it soon started paying dividends, with 2022 being a breakout year on the European Tour as he won four titles.

He transferred that to the main PDC Tour in 2023 and when he won the Grand Prix in Leicester in October to claim his first major title the floodgates were opened.


Nicknamed ‘Cool Hand’ in reference to the 1967 prison-drama film Cool Hand Luke, he has taken no prisoners, winning 19 successive matches as he also triumphed in the prestigious Grand Slam of Darts and Players Championship tournaments.

He has often been called boring as he is more reserved than the showman Peter Wright, fist-pumping Michael van Gerwen or combative Gerwyn Price, but he has let his darts do the talking.

His semi-final win at Alexandra Palace saw him overtake Van Gerwen and Michael Smith to become the new world number one and he solidified that position 24 hours later by becoming the world champion.

The player that froze on stage in Germany five years ago would be proud.

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