Justin Pipe ready for battle in PDC Ladbrokes World Darts Championship
Justin Pipe is building some real momentum for this year's PDC Ladbrokes World Darts Championship, which gets under way at London's Alexandra Palace this evening.
The Somerset pro gained a lot of mainstream media exposure with some impressive performances in last weekend's Cash Converters Players Championship, screened live on ITV4.
Pipe, from Taunton, was only a double away from knocking out former BDO world champion Mark Webster and reaching the quarter-finals at the Doncaster Dome.
But, while it may have been the first chance for casual fans to get a glimpse of the likeable 40-year-old, Pipe's performances came as no surprise to darts insiders.
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He's had his most successful year to date, with 2011 seeing him establish himself as the No.1 ranked player on the floor.
Pipe won his first Pro Tour event in Dublin in October, beating 15-time world champion Phil Taylor 6-5 in the final, and then added two more titles to earn top seeding for the Players Championship.
Pipe gets his 2012 World Championship bid under way on Friday evening when he meets Australia's Sean Reed, and this year's performances have given him real confidence that he can shine on the sport's biggest stage.
"I've proved that I've got the game and the mental strength," said Pipe in a special feature with the Independent.
"But you've got a very small window in which to produce your top game and you've got to hit the ground running or you're on your way home.
"Last year I think I gave a good account of myself on my World Championship debut against Mark Walsh, although unfortunately it didn't go my way.
"This year I'm seeded, and I'm up against Sean Reed, the Australian. He's no mug, the same as everyone else in the competition.
"They all deserve to be there, so I'll be treating Sean with the same respect I would treat Mr Taylor."
One of Pipe's unique characteristics on the oche is his slow throwing action - he takes around 20 seconds to throw three darts, which is more than twice as long as it takes reigning world champion Adrian Lewis.
It's the result of an accident in 1993 that left his right arm paralysed for three months.
"The slow action came from teaching my arm and my shoulder how to move again really, and it was quite effective," he said.
"I had to take my time, go through every motion – how to pick my arm up, how to move my shoulder – so I'm concentrating on each dart and giving it 100 per cent."
Pipe, a former boxer and cage fighter, also places a strong emphasis on fitness. He rarely drinks, and says the smoking ban has played a key part in his darting rise.
"I stepped down from darts when I was 21 to concentrate on building up my business (tree surgery)," he said.
"I'd always played, in the garage, just to stay in harness, but when I was about 36, the smoking ban came in, which made a huge difference.
"In smoky venues my eyes ran really bad, tears used to stream down my cheeks and that had been a factor in me not bothering any more. But as soon as the ban came in (in 2007), I was able to enter open competitions and not worry about the smoke."
Pipe's first round match with Reed will be screened live on Sky Sports on Friday evening. The match is due to start at 7.10pm.
To read the full Independent interview with Justin Pipe, click here.