Note before reading: This is not an objective article. It’s an article about a champion, a great player, a wonderful friend and how I have experienced this weekend.
Remember how I was very excited for the arrival of Kwanghee (I always call him Kwang…) to my wonderful country the Netherlands? Because he was going to play the WDDA Winmau World Championship during the Dutch Open Darts as well as the Paradarts competition on Saturday. I wrote articles a couple of times before about how well Kwanghee plays in South Korea (see here, after this weekend I could write way more btw), as well as a preview where I said he would have a great chance. I also told Kwanghee before he departed that he would win the tournament, because I have believed in him from the moment he got the wildcard and I will believe in him until forever.
Friday (WDDA Winmau World Championship)
Friday I arrived at the venue with the idea of taking some pictures of Kwanghee and a couple of other players. Kwanghee was the first player I met, and he instantly recognized my face. We talked a bit and I promised to watch his match after putting my pictures on the laptop. I ended up helping him all day, which was fun to do 🙂
First round up was Bernard Martens from Belgium. Bernard wasn’t playing his best game, so Kwanghee flew through this game and won 3-0. Second game he played Paul Hampton. This was a tougher match, but still a 3-1 win. Into the quarter finals Kwanghee met Peter Bramley and got 2-0 behind. A 180 saw him getting back and he won the match 3-2. The semifinal was played against Jonathan Hirst, great scoring from Kwanghee saw him win 3-0. Kwanghee got wings during the day and made the final where he met Mike Callaghan from England. Another great game between the two, Kwanghee nearly missed a 170 for the match, Mike missed a 132 finish, both played well. Kwanghee won 3-1 and lifted the trophy, flowers, another trophy, banner and so much stuff he couldn’t hold it, haha. I got the flowers to put in a vase at home. I drove Kwanghee back to his hotel where he got me a big bag of Korean food to eat during my way home. Saturday would see the Dutch Open Paradarts tournament, but honestly both of us didn’t grab a lot of sleep and the players field would increase from 32 to 80+ participants, so another exciting day would begin…
Saturday (Dutch Open Paradarts Competition)
Saturday I made my way to the Bonte Wever in Assen again. Kwanghee arrived at 9.30 and the playing area was so much busier than Friday with the many more participants. Most of the time, we sat on the ground and trash bin. Kwanghee started out in the L128, didn’t receive a bye like most players did. I remember most of the matches went 3-0 because even though Kwanghee was very tired, he played even better than Friday. The two matches I remember best were the match against Philip Smith, where Kwang got 2-0 up and then it go so, so close in the end. Kwanghee won 3-2 hitting D1 to win the match, I remember being such a nervous jelly and I heard so many people behind me say it was over for Kwanghee… Also the match against Peter Bramley in the semis was good, it ended up in a 4-2 win for Kwanghee and so it was the final again. This time he was up against the Dutch Jaap Pol, who was obviously crowd favorite. Shame for the Dutch supporters (wait, I’m Dutch…) because Kwanghee won 4-0. That means both titles go home to South Korea and another bouquet of flowers went home with me. I have made them into one big bouquet.
Kwanghee hit an 11 darter (I thought it was 12, but some people say 11, some say 12), on Saturday, it was amazing to see him doing so well. With the wins, Kwanghee made history by being the first South Korean World Champ. On top of everything he achieved in South Korea, we say: Kwanghee made history, I teach history.
We were asked to do one interview on Sunday so I decided to take Kwanghee to see the other finals which we watched from the balcony. He normally watches these tournaments on stream, so for him to see such a big tournament live was a great experience. Overall, I can say this was an amazing experience for both of us. I’m glad Kwanghee enjoyed his stay in the Netherlands and honored I could be part of all of this. I’ve already thanked most people in person, but again I want to thank everyone who has been part of this experience and made this a great weekend for both of us. All of the staff, de Bonte Wever, the NDB, Winmau, the tournament directors and officials, the photographers for taking pictures and most of all, the players and their supporters who made this such a fun tournament. Also thanks to Professional Darts Korea (PDK) for making it possible to send Kwanghee over to the Netherlands.
Kwang and I became very good friends (I have a good brother in South Korea now) so most of all, I’m incredibly happy and it’s an experience I’ll never forget. I hope it will be possible to get Kwang to Europe more often, and I still hope there will be opportunities for me to do journalism in Asia. I will work even harder now!
*(For everyone who wants to know about why Kwanghee was at this tournament, I recommend to watch this on YouTube, you can put English captions on)