‘My bro would wait hour for me to throw amid dartitis – now I’m at Ally Pally

However he fares on his on Ally Pally debut, Berry van Peer’s mere presence is an inspirational tale of triumph over adversity.

The Dutchman is known to many fans for his chronic struggles with dartitis, the psychological condition which sees players unable to let go of the dart, with his most high-profile bout occurring against Gary Anderson at the Grand Slam six years ago. Then just 21, Van Peer was close to tears as he struggled to throw.

At the time he vowed he would never let dartitis derail his career – and so it has proved. Having suffered another setback by losing his PDC Tour card at the end of last year, Van Peer has enjoyed a fabulous 2023, topping the Challenge Tour to not only book a place at the Paddy Power World Championship, but also regain his card.

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“It [getting over dartitis] was mostly just practising, keeping all the positives thoughts, like results from years ago, and removing the negatives thoughts,” says Van Peer, now 27, who faces Luke Woodhouse in the first round today (Thursday).

“I found a way of visualising what I’m going to hit. So if I have a 76 checkout to go for, I’ll visualise that I’m going for treble 20, double 18. That helped me a lot. Breathing patterns have helped a little bit too. Confidence is a lot, especially mentally.”

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On what was causing the condition, Van Peer explains: “It’s a strange story. I was over alert so I would get scared from everything around me. If you just walked by me and said ‘hey’, I would be like ‘oh Jesus, where did you come from?’. Once that started, it was hard to tell my brain it was nothing.”

While his most public episode came at the 2017 Grand Slam, he found practising especially tough. In his own words it was hell, but the support of his brother Carlo, also a darts player, was instrumental.

“Practice was really a hell,” recalls Van Peer. “Me and my brother always practice together. He just stood there waiting for me to finish my throw, he couldn’t care less. He was like ‘I will just wait’. Sometimes it took so long.

“People would say to him ‘you practice with Berry all the time, isn’t that annoying?' And he’d be like ‘why, I had all the time in the world, I don’t care if he takes an hour to throw the dart or 10 seconds, it doesn’t matter’. He’s always supported me and has played a very important part in my life.”

Like Berry, Carlo plays has been playing on the PDC’s Challenge Tour. Berry hopes he can return the favour by helping his sibling with his own issues.

“He’s a very good player,” he adds. “He’s unlucky sometimes. He can get very annoyed at himself which is something he has to work on and maybe I can help with that.

“Sometimes he doesn’t want to listen to that! But it’s fun, it’s a good brother relationship. I have a very supportive family, that helps a lot.”

Van Peer, who works in a clothing warehouse back in his native Netherlands, says he didn’t let his darting issues affect him too much away from the oche.

“It wasn’t that bad,” he adds. “Sometimes I was at work and was thinking about it, which made me less focused on work. But mostly, no one really noticed. Sometimes, when you go to darts, you have to have a fake smile. Then, when you get home, you can work on it again.”

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Van Peer is justifiably proud of his journey and hopes it can help other players with the condition see light at the end of the tunnel.

“My family couldn’t be prouder, no matter I do,” he says with a smile. “They’ve supported everything I do and I’ve had great support from friends too. It’s nice.

“I’m so proud of my results over the last two years. It hasn’t always been great, but I’ve won some tournaments. I’ve won my Tour card twice now after my struggles. It’s achievements I could only have dreamed off when I started. Now I’m at the World Championship, I couldn’t be happier.

“The first footstep on that stage is going to feel like goosebumps. I’ll have friends and family there and I’m going to enjoy it, no matter what. Win or lose, I will be proud of myself for sure.”

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