Michael Smith believes he has tamed the raging 'Bully Boy' inside – and the wild thing of darts is heading for glory as the mild thing.
Twice the beaten finalist, Smith eased into the last eight at the Cazoo PDC World Championship with a 4-1 win against Joe Cullen, averaging 103.25 and hitting 10 maximum three-in-a-bed. Then the No.4 seed revealed he had been teaching himself the art of calmness and learning to bite his lip when he wanted to scream.
Four years ago, Smith broke his left hand punching a toilet door in frustration backstage during a break in his 7-3 defeat by Michael van Gerwen in the final. And the popular St Helens marksman dissolved into tears on stage following his 7-5 loss against Peter Wright in another outpouring of emotion.
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But Smith, 32, deserves zen out of zen for his efforts to stay calm in 2022 after rejecting speculative offers of help with his anger management from psychologists.
After a convincing display against Cullen, he said: “I never once got flustered. I never lost it. Twice against Martin (Schindler) in the previous round, I looked up and I wanted to scream, but I remembered: No, stop it.
“I remembered what I'd been trying to work on, about staying calm, and today it was the same. This game is 80 per cent about throwing darts and 20 per cent what goes on in your mind, whether you are thinking about a missed double or whatever.
“If you go on that stage thinking you're going to miss a big treble, then you'll miss, and I've been working hard on that side of the game since I lost to Michael in the final four years ago.
“I got one or two messages on Facebook and a couple of letters – addressed to 'Michael Smith, St Helens' and they managed to find my house because the postman knows who I am – from psychologists inviting me to their homes and saying they could help me.
“I read through them and thought, 'No thanks' – I'm not going to respond because whatever I go on to achieve, I want the motivation to come from within. If I'd agreed to speak to someone, and then I won the Grand Slam, they could have said, “I did that – it's down to me.' But I want everything to come down to me.
“When I lost that final against Michael, I had darts to win seven sets and when I went backstage in an early break, I punched a door with my left fist and it bent back so far the crown (time adjuster) on my watch dug into the back of my hand.
“It wasn't my throwing hand, but the pain was searing. When I was 19, I slipped over on ice and broke both my hands trying to break my fall, and I thought I was done for. Never going to play again.
“Fortunately they healed well, but if I had punched that door with my right hand – my throwing hand – that might have been it. One bad mistake could be my last mistake.
“Anger is not for me. I've proved in 2022, even if things don't go your way, as long as you don't give up, one day a door will open and you'll walk straight through it.”
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