Michael Smith World Championship 2024 Preview
Little under 12 months ago, Michael Smith produced the performance of his life, pinning double eight to claim victory over Michael van Gerwen, bringing an end to a remarkably engrossing final at the Alexandra Palace and in doing so, realising a lifelong dream, becoming World Champion and with it, world number one.
The St Helens man’s success generated worldwide coverage, with many television shows and media personalities attempting to turn their hand to commentary to try and emulate the work of Wayne Mardle during the greatest leg of all time where Smith produced perfection having just seen his opponent MvG miss double 12 to complete a nine dart leg himself.
Having started the year on the ultimate high, there were a few months spent basking in the glory and enjoying life to the fullest but Bully Boy has been hitting the practice board hard over recent weeks and has a revived belief in his game as he looks to defend his crown at the Alexandra Palace in London.
There have been encouraging signs for the St Helens man heading into the sport’s showcase event as he reached the semi-final of the Grand Prix in October before producing a number of quality displays en route to the quarter-final of the final Players Championship event of the year.
Whilst results in the last two televised tournaments haven’t gone Smith’s way, practicing regularly with World Matchplay champion Nathan Aspinall has helped him to get back into a solid routine that he trusts will serve him well over the next few weeks.
Smith said: “Everything seems to be going right again. I’m hitting 180s, hitting my doubles, I’m starting to do everything that I used to."
“Something has been missing but there’s no better tournament to find form again. I know what it takes to win it and I know I can bring my A-game on the Ally Pally stage.”
Michael has commented numerous times on his own work ethic and how he’s needed to make improvements on that front over recent weeks, in order to return to the level he had been producing in the build-up to last year’s World Championship.
Prior to his lifechanging success on January 3rd, Michael had endured years of being dubbed the nearly man and whilst nobody had ever doubted his talent, he did have to tolerate tournament after tournament of his bottle and resilience being questioned. Bully Boy answered all of those questions in the most emphatic way possible, and the pain that came before certainly made his achievements that little bit sweeter.
It seems remarkable now to think back to the excruciating agony etched on his face following defeat to Ross Smith in the European Championship final in 2022. We as darts fans have always expected to see him reach the latter stages of events but now there is no surprise when he lifts silverware and adds further accolades to his repertoire and whilst he’s not quite been firing on all cylinders recently, he has shown in events like the Grand Prix, that things are starting to click again.
Michael said after becoming World Champion that he didn’t expect to become a dominant force in this game, he was very realistic about his ambitions going forward and how he believed things would transpire for him at the summit of the game.
It’ll undoubtedly be a special feeling for Bully Boy when he returns to the scene of his iconic and historic exploits on Friday night. To hear John McDonald announce the 33-year-old to the crowd as the reigning and defending champion is something that has always brought a smile to his face at events and is something he wants to continue long after the 2024 World Darts Championship is over.
“I don’t want the feeling of being World Champion to end, I don’t want to be introduced as the former World Champion so hopefully I can go and win it again this year.
I’m looking forward to defending my title, it’s a surreal feeling knowing that I’ll be returning as the reigning and defending champion. Seeing pictures at the venue of me holding the trophy, the memories of what I achieved will give me the motivation and lift that I need.”
Smith could of course face a fellow Shot player in round two, if Stowe Buntz can advance past Kevin Doets in the opening match of the tournament, the American will return later that same night to try and prematurely end Michael’s hopes of retaining the title.
If that clash does happen on the opening night of the World Championship, we wish both players the very best of luck and trust that it is a contest of the highest quality.
Let’s go, Shot Darts Tribe.
Photo courtesy of Photosport/PDC