Darts is one of the oldest established English pub games and it is one sport that the British can lawfully claim to be the masters of. One person who endorses this claim is British expat, Tracy Topping, who recently triumphed in the woman's singles section of the Spanish National Darts Championships. Tracy fought her way through eight rounds before reaching the finals, which were held in Gandia, Valencia, at the end of April. She triumphed over a player who had been tipped to win the competition, and now she is preparing to take part in the World Masters championships in the UK later this year.
Born in Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, Tracy started playing darts at the age of ten, practising on a dart board her father, also a keen player, had installed in the garage. She began playing in the local darts league as a teenager but progressed to become a county player, representing England on several occasions.
It was during this period that Tracy got chance to partner her hero, Eric Bristow, who she got to know well on the circuit during the golden era of darts. She paired up with the five-time world champion, nicknamed The Crafty Cockney, on several occasions, but never actually played against him in a competition.
She also played with 'Goldfinger', Maureen Flowers, Britain's top female player during the 80s and former girlfriend of Bristow.
“Eric looked after us when we were young hopefuls; he was a real gentleman. He was a brilliant player and a really nice guy. His death last month was a great loss to the game,” Tracy explains to SUR in English.
Previously residing in Cyprus, Tracy came to Spain in 2001 to be with her husband. He was in the merchant navy and based in Malaga, and Tracy quickly fell in love with the Costa del Sol. However, at this time, conventional darts was not a popular game in Spain and so Tracy did not get much opportunity to play. In fact, she had only picked up her darts again just 18 months before she won the championship in April, having not played seriously for almost 20 years.
It was a personal tragedy that instigated Tracy's return to the oche. In 2016, Tracy's life was shattered when her husband died and in order to try and divert some of her grief, she was persuaded to take up darts once again.
“Playing darts again helped me overcome a little of my grief, because I needed an escape. I had cared for my husband for three years, so it was a way of getting myself out of the house,” Tracy says sadly, as she recalls the period.
Tracy began playing in the friendly league in Fuengirola and here she was spotted by two players from the Malaga league. They were so impressed with her skill; they asked her to consider playing for The Beer Garden, this year's silver cup winners. It the oldest British pub team in the Malaga league, which is affiliated with Spanish National League.
Tracy, who uses a set of 32 gram tungsten darts, took up their offer, although she still plays in the Fuengirola league as well. She was soon persuaded to enter the Ladies Singles Spanish National Championships and she was one of only two British contestants in the competition. Even though she had the support of her teammates, some of whom were also competing, Tracy was not confident she could win the competition, seeing as she had been away from the game for so many years.
“There were about 900 people there and I was nervous because I hadn't played at this level for many years. The standard of darts was much higher than I expected. There are some very good Spanish players even though it hasn't been a national game for that long,” she says.
The World Masters
Tracy first entered the World Masters Championships at the age of 17 and now she is set to return once again. Winning the Spanish national competition automatically qualified Tracy to enter the World Masters Finals, organised by the British Darts Organisation (BDO), in Hull in October.
She currently plays in three different darts leagues on the coast, which means she is now back in full training and has her eyes firmly set on a victory at BDO finals, but the only thing she is lacking is sponsorship.
“I want to do well and I'll do my best, but there's a long way to go yet. Before I do anything else, I need to find a sponsor, so I can continue to play and prepare myself for Masters Tournament,” the shy darts champion concludes.