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British teenager's surprise World Darts Championship run ends in defeat

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Last night, in London, a teenager came close to an extraordinary victory in the sport of darts. After a remarkable run of wins through the two-week-long World Darts Championship, 16-year-old Luke Littler finally lost in the final to the world No. 1. But this surprising success in his debut tournament captured the British public's imagination, as Willem Marx reports.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Runner up will receive his trophy and 200,000 pounds. And it goes to Luke "The Nuke" Littler.

(CHEERING)

WILLEM MARX, BYLINE: Luke Littler's new darts nickname, The Nuke, was prompted by his devastating series of victories against men sometimes more than three times his age. As he progressed through his first ever major contest, he attracted national attention, huge television viewing figures and a massive social media following. Littler began playing at just 18 months old with a magnetic board and since then, he's developed into what his opponent in last night's final called an incredible talent. But in some ways, he's still an ordinary teenager, playing Xbox and ordering pizza before each major match.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHEERING)

MARX: Darts requires precise technique and intense focus as players compete to land their flighted darts on a bullseye board.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHEERING)

MARX: In a major competition such as this one, raucous fans in a large hall make that task even tougher. Beyond his painstaking precision, what Luke Littler has proved he also possesses is extraordinary self-confidence and assurance even in the tensest moments. Those who know him well say he thrives on pressure. But last night, that calm was not enough to carry him to victory. Even in defeat, though, he sounded positively mature in his post-match interview with tournament broadcaster Sky Sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LUKE LITTLER: I got to the final and might not get to another final for the next five, 10 years. We don't know. But I can say I'm a runner up, and now I just want to go and win it.

MARX: Littler started this contest ranked 164th in the world. As runner up, he's now earned entry to the sport's permanent professional league for the coming year. And more than that, he's won over a new generation of British fans. Over the past two weeks, stores selling darts have reported a spike in sales. For NPR News, I'm Willem Marx in London.

(SOUNDBITE OF AMMONCONTACT'S "STEREO-X 5:15 PT 1") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Willem Marx