Sat, Jul 10, 2004 - Page 16 News List

Aiming for a bull's-eye

The Chinese Taipei Darts Associationis planning to build a nationalteam that will one day compete on theinternational darts circuit

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Chinese Taipei Darts Association's Vice Chairman Tony Kuo hopes the current campaign to popularize the sport of darts will result in a national team that can compete internationally.

PHOTO: GAVIN PHIPPS, TAIPEI TIMES

As the nation continues to lament its lack of outstanding sports personalities, the Chinese Taipei Darts Association (華民國飛鏢運動協會) hopes to rectify this with a campaign aimed at promoting darts as both a sport and a form of exercise rather than simply a pastime enjoyed at bars.

The association was established just over a year ago and was, until recently, based out of the Kaohsiung offices of its chairman, Huang Tien-huang (天煌). With a roster of 20 active members, the group was one of the smallest and most under-publicized sporting associations in Taiwan.

In a bid to fuel interest in darts and create a national darts league to eventually field a national team at international events, the association opened a Taipei bureau in May this year. While many local pub teams meet for social competitions -- there are 10 such teams in the Tianmu area alone -- a national squad hasn't competed on the international circuit for almost a decade.

Organized by the long-disbanded Taipei Darts League, the Taiwanese team was once a regular participant in the biennial Asia Cup and numerous other competitions throughout Asia. Lack of sponsorship deals and financial backing, however, finally put an end to the national squad.

"We used to go to Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and all over Asia to compete in competitions and did quite well," recalled Jack Wang (早陽), who has been playing competitive darts for 20 years. "I remember asking the government for help with the costs, but they weren't interested. They told me that if we wanted to continue I should use my own money and that was the end of it."

The new Taipei office, which is headed by the darts association's vice chairman, Hong Kong-born Tony Kuo (金耀), has wasted no time in establishing its credentials. Setting out to promote darts as both a sport and a family-orientated pastime, the Taipei bureau has already registered as an official sports association with the Taipei City Government and hopes to secure financial backing for up-coming competitions and promotional events.

Kuo is also holding negotiations with cable sports networks about the possibility of broadcasting future competitions. While TV deals and government assistance are still up in the air, the association has already enjoyed a modicum of success. Since opening in Taipei, the association's roster has jumped to over 150 members.

"We've seen some success, but we've still got a long way to go. The average person still thinks of [darts] as a game to play in the pub," said Kuo. "Because of this we're not just promoting it as a competitive sport and with the help of the city government, we are also promoting darts as a form of exercise and a game the whole family can enjoy."

The association has received verbal support from the Taipei City Government along with sponsorship deals from a couple of local newspapers and has also enlisted help from popular soap-opera stars Chang Yuen-chang (元暢) and Chen Yu-fan (宇凡), both of whom, according to Kuo, are avid darts players.

While Wang remains hopeful of one day seeing a Taiwanese team return to the international darts circuit, he is somewhat skeptical of the tiny under-funded association's ability to maintain a high enough profile to carry out its goals.

"It's always been a question of money rather than that of finding talent able to compete abroad. There are a lot good players in Taiwan, but few people willing to back a team financially," said Wang. "The creation of a fully functioning national league will take at least one or two years."

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