The rise of Dimitri Van den Bergh
By Josh Gorton
Last Updated: 08/06/18 3:21pm
It has been an incredible few months in the life of Dimitri Van den Bergh since he was crowned World Youth champion last November.
He has enjoyed a run to the World Championship quarter-finals, reached a World Series final, and led Belgium to the World Cup of Darts semi-finals on debut. Josh Gorton examines the stunning rise of the 'Dream-Maker'...
For many years, Van den Bergh had been touted as a future star due to his success on the Youth circuit, but he's now showcasing his ability on the biggest stages to underline his status as one of the hottest properties in the world of darts.
The 23-year-old stormed to World Youth Championship glory last November; defeating Josh Payne 6-3 with a 101.23 average - the highest average ever recorded in a World Youth final.
His stock rose further still at the World Championship, where he defeated the established trio of Stephen Bunting, Jan Dekker and Mensur Suljovic to reach the quarter-finals, before he succumbed to eventual champion Rob Cross in a gripping deciding-set, having recovered from 4-1 down to send the match into overtime.
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Van den Bergh's performances at Alexandra Palace prompted calls for him to be included in the 2018 Premier League, but for Dimitri himself, his showing at the World Championship proved invaluable for his confidence.
"For me to think about what I've done, what I have accomplished; it just shows myself that I can do it and it's not only on the practice board, I can do it at the times it's needed and if I keep improving myself, I can only say I'm going to have a good future," he tells Sky Sports.
Few would argue with Van den Bergh's assertion, and Sky Sports' Rod Harrington, who played a starring role in the implementation of the PDC Youth Tour, believes the future is bright for the Belgian.
"He has always had that air of confidence - some people call it arrogance but it's not - it's confidence. What I like about him is that he's a character as well - he gets up there dancing so he's going to get remembered," says Harrington.
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"Then when he throws darts like that it just proves that he's got the full package and I'd love to see him go on and compete in every TV event now. We need these players to come through."
Van den Bergh is renowned for being one of the most humble and respectful players on the circuit and he made an instant impression on 'Mr Harrington' when making his debut at a Youth event in 2013.
"I remember seeing Dimitri when he played his first Youth event in Crawley. He turned up and won one of them and he actually called me Mr Harrington back then, I'll never forget it. He's one of the most polite young men I've ever met and when I see kids like him come through, it puts a smile on my face."
However, behind his happy-go-lucky exterior, there is a fierce determination to succeed, and what separates Van den Bergh from many other young talents is his ability to produce under pressure. Yet the man himself discloses an interesting regime behind his new-found composure.
"I always was nervous and my heart was pumping so then I found a practice routine that I could do in the gym like interval practice, so you need to pump your heart so that it goes fast and then you need to get it relaxed in a couple of seconds again, and that's what I learnt myself to use on the stage and it serves me really well, as it takes away the nerves and the shaking."
After a slightly underwhelming start to his Pro Tour season, Van den Bergh has come alive over recent weeks; reaching the final of the German Darts Masters on his World Series debut, where he defeated Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson within a matter of hours before losing in the final to Mensur Suljovic.
'The Dream-Maker' then made his World Cup bow alongside Kim Huybrechts and was a revelation, leading his nation to the semi-finals before losing to an inspired Raymond van Barneveld, who posted his highest televised average of 113.38 to prevail 4-2, despite Van den Bergh averaging over 107, and Harrington is predicting big things for the Belgian.
"What Dimitri proved last week to me - not only did he beat Michael van Gerwen, he then went on to beat Gary Anderson - that was it for me. To beat those two, to keep his calm; in that last leg against Gary Anderson he hit an 11-darter with the throw, he put Gary Anderson out of the equation and that's what Michael and Gary normally do.
"I think now we are going to see a very competent Dimitri. We've seen Max Hopp win a European Tour which is great - we've now seen Dimitri make the final of the World Series. We've got a rosy future with the likes of them coming through. Dimitri seems a level-headed sort of guy, he seems like he's got some good people around him so I think he's got a major tournament in him - maybe in the next few years."
The phrase 'future world champion' is often banded around with wilful abandon but in the case of Van den Bergh, the hype is certainly justified. He's already proven his credentials on the biggest stage of them all, and he's highly fancied by many to appear in next year's Premier League.
To build on this stat from before. @VandenBerghDimi was on a finish after 9 darts every leg vs RVB. Overall for the singles at the #WorldCupofDarts he was on a finish after 9 darts 15/18 legs he played (83.33%)!@Rod_Studd @Chris180Mason #RealWorldCup #PDC 🎯 https://t.co/13PQf4pWNY— Carl Fletcher (@CarlyFletch) June 3, 2018
Nevertheless, the level-headed nature that Rod Harrington alludes to is evidenced once more as Van den Bergh discusses his targets for the remainder of the darting season.
"I want to perform on the floor tournaments, get to the quarter-final of a European Tour, playing in as many TV tournaments as I can and keep growing and keep getting up the rankings. Those are the goals that I have.
"In my eyes they are realistic because I've put the work in. Okay it takes time, but I know I have it in me and I have time, if it's not this year it will be next year. I believe and I fight for those goals."
The man nicknamed 'The Dream-Maker' bears a tattoo with the words 'following my dreams', but those darting dreams have become a reality over recent months, and it's only just the start.
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