Darts: Gabriel Clemens, the haven of calm in a shrill world – sport

Gabriel Clemens’ career began in a pub. That sounds bizarre, but for many current dart players, the path to becoming a professional in the early years led along the bar counter – and not through a youth training center. Gabriel Clemens bought his own disc at some point and took part in the first league tournaments, it was 20 years ago. Today he makes good money with the arrows.

Clemens himself hadn’t expected that he would get that far: “My plan was never to become a dart pro,” he says, “I never thought about it.” Now he is number 25 in the world and thus currently the best dart player in Germany. The Saarwellinger celebrated his greatest success at the World Cup in December 2020 when he threw the then reigning world champion Peter Wright out of the tournament in the third round in the venerable London Ally Pally and was the first German to reach the second round.

Gerwyn Price, Michael van Gerwen, Peter Wright – the World Cup is top-class

This Thursday the World Cup of Darts starts in Jena, so to speak the team world championship of this sport, the only tournament in the year in which the players compete as a duet. Clemens will meet Jeff Smith and Matt Campbell in the first round with his partner Max Hopp on Friday evening, a compulsory task. Last year, the two Germans made it to the semi-finals. Nevertheless, there are other favorites, says Clemens: “Scotland, England, Holland, the usual suspects.”

The defending champions are Welsh Gerwyn Price and Jonny Clayton, who will also be there this time. For the “German Giant”, as Clemens calls himself by his nickname, it is a special tournament despite the outsider chances, “because you play for Germany for the only time a year.”

For the first time he leads the duo as the German number one, in recent years this role has always been reserved for his partner Hopp. What did this rank mean to him? “That’s the way it is,” replies Clemens tersely, but then becomes a little more detailed: “Of course, it’s nice when you get confirmation of what you’re doing. But my goal is to continuously improve myself and my game, and not to achieve any ranking positions. “

The 38-year-old is not a man of big words. In the world of arrows, which is teeming with shrill and extravagant personalities, he is more of the silent observer. For example, there is the aforementioned Peter Wright, for whom his wife styles his mohawk haircut in a different color before every game. Or Gerwyn Price, current world champion, who inflates his muscles after every successful action on stage, a relic from his time as a rugby professional, and has not necessarily become the most popular of all players.

Since playing as a professional, Clemens has earned almost 225,000 euros in prize money

Clemens has no exuberant hairstyles or fancy outfits, he does not perform any dances on stage like the young Belgian Dimitri van den Bergh. And he doesn’t have a manager who coordinates appointments and inquiries, as most players do at his level. “In the end he only wants money,” says Clemens, “and as long as I can do it myself with my girlfriend, it’ll work.”

Instead, he sold tickets for a raffle on his Instagram account in the summer, two euros each, and thus raised 12,000 euros for two good causes. Among the 80 prizes donated were professional darts, a DFB jersey from Jonas Hector and cross-country skis from biathlon Olympic champion Michael Rösch. Why all that? “You have to do something good from time to time,” says Clemens.

Two years ago, Clemens decided to give up his job as an industrial mechanic and pursue the sport of darts as a full professional. But he has kept his day-to-day work: “I get up at seven o’clock every morning, then drive to my training room like others to work, and at some point I go to work.” He throws his arrows for up to six hours a day. Having a training room outside of your own four walls is particularly important, because otherwise “you could also sit on the couch and watch a little television”.

In the past two years alone, roughly since he became a professional, he has brought in around 225,000 euros in prize money, which is decisive for the world rankings of the Professional Darts Cooperation (PDC). “But I’m not someone who wears a Rolex now. Material things are not so important to me,” emphasizes Clemens. Other things have priority: “The heating must work in winter and the refrigerator must be full.” And if that were ever in danger, he would have no problem getting back to the workbench.

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