Hempel talks about remarkable switch from handball to darts: 'I had no idea about this sport'
Florian Hempel obtained a Tour Card at Q-School earlier this year, even though he has only been playing darts since 2017. Until then, he played handball, he revealed how he switched to darts in the German podcast "Game On".
After moving to Cologne, he lived in a shared flat where his fellow residents had a dartboard and occasionally played for fun. When Hempel had a week off, he would throw a few darts every now and then and enjoyed the game. When a couple of shafts had broken off, he drove to a darts shop for advice.
"They asked me, 'How long have you been playing? What are you playing?' So I told my story. They were quickly fascinated and invited me to a tournament that same evening. In Cologne there is a pairs tournament every night. The entry fee was 5 euros and then I could participate. I had no idea about this sport," Hempel says with a laugh. The German darter would eventually even win that pairs tournament, although he can't remember how good he really was.
Six months later, a Euro Tour qualifier was played in Leverkusen. Entry fee was 125 euros, and Hempel used his prize money from the pairs tournament to enter this Host Nation Qualifier. Hempel played against German talent Nico Blum and this match made him realize that he also had a talent for darts himself. Hempel trailed 5-1, but still managed to win the game 6-5. Later in the tournament, he lost to Tomas Seyler, a former Tour Card holder.
Hempel is now in possession of a Tour Card. "It just goes to show that I think you can do anything. I knew what I could do, knew what I could play. I'm also confident in myself, in my game, what I can play at home, what I can bring to the practice board I've been able to bring that up far too little in recent years if it really mattered."
Now his first goal is to reach the top 64 so he can keep his Tour Card, "In my head there is no thought of failure. If I had to think about when I would have failed, I would be putting myself under pressure. "Of course I have the goal to keep the Tour Card. But if I lose the Tour Card, I can always get it back. I can go back to Q-School and on top of that I have gained some experience."
When asked whether Hempel brings useful handball skills to the darts circuit, he emphasizes that it is not so much about skills, but about experience.
"Recently I was asked what it would be like if I had achieved what I have achieved 10 years ago. I think 10 years ago I would not have been able to compete as I am now, because then I would have all the experience, ambition, practice , experience for spectators, I would have missed everything. I don't think 10 years ago I would have been so ambitious, to put myself in front of the board for 6 hours, sometimes 8 hours to practice every day."
Focus on the World Championship
In order to increase his chance of making it to the top 64 of the PDC Order of Merit, Hempel has set his sights on World Championship qualification. He recently came close to this goal, but Hempel lost to Martin Schindler in the final of the German World Championship qualifying tournament (PDC Europe Super League).
"For me it's about playing as good as I can this year. I have two options left. One of them is through the Pro Tour Order of Merit and the other option is the PDPA Qualifier.”