With the Coronavirus pandemic taking a hold of the world over the past year, darts was one of the first sports to open its doors again but changes have had to take place with Super Series blocks taking the place of ProTours and behind closed doors being the name of the game.
For many players during the last Super Series in particular, the lack of elite sport exemption and mandatory quarantine saw them decide against playing in Germany, while for those who went it was seemingly a struggle.
But for Jeff Smith, former Lakeside finalist and PDC Tour Card holder, he has used the past year to document the hurdles he has had to face going to and from his home in Canada to play in these tournaments on his social media.
He caught up with DartsNews to go into more detail on the cost of the mandatory quarantine he initially had to complete as well as the testing procedures going to and from Germany for the last lot of Super Series tournaments.
“It's been very difficult this year compared to last even. My Federal Government has imposed a mandatory quarantine at our expense when returning to Canada in excess of $1100 each trip, and during the last Series in Germany my Provincial Government hit me with a secondary hotel quarantine 7 days at $1400,” said Smith to DartsNews.com.
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“Luckily, I was able to convince them after 2.5 hrs with Peace Officers, they considered me a rotational worker which meant I could avoid the Provincial hotel deal and just quarantine at home. But to put it in perspective I've missed my last 2 flights, as the restrictions with testing made it impossible.”
“The last series involved me being tested a total of 9 times. Adding up all that quarantine time and playing events, I'm lucky to still have a job when I get home. Financially it's been very difficult, and if not for ZWA Sports Management I would have had to hand back my tour card.”
Potential move to the UK?
As a result, Smith added that he has stayed in the UK when possible when events fall together but despite all the hurdles presented and thoughts of potentially moving, family comes first.
“I've been staying for 2 and 3 sections of events, sometimes 3-4 weeks. It's very difficult for the family life. We have spoken about moving, but with my girls in a school they don't want to give up their life here for uncertainty there. Hard to leave one of the World's best places to live.”
A big talking point has been with the aforementioned Super Series blocks which group together multiple Players Championship tournaments in a week in the bubble either in the UK or Germany and having spent most of his return to the ProTour in this situation, he hopes it will stay after the pandemic.
“I think the Super Series events just makes sense. It's great for those outside the UK to make the trip worthwhile, but also the logistics for the PDC with set up and tear down of events. I hope it's here to stay.”
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Aiming higher than keeping Tour Card
Smith is currently just inside the World’s top 64 but doesn’t see keeping his Tour Card as a sole aim. Despite that though, his ambition for now is to navigate the rest of the pandemic and the ever-changing restrictions.
“Obviously, it's where you need to be to remain in the PDC, but I also feel I should be focusing on a much higher ranking than just 64. I just need to survive the remainder of these restrictions, so I can focus on only darts, and not the hours of research on the ever changing how to get to and from events,” he continued.
World Championship and World Matchplay qualification
Having reached the second round at the World Championship at the turn of the year, he sits well inside the qualification for the showpiece event currently and could even force a debut at the World Matchplay with a few good runs.
But in terms of the next Super Series, it is all about being ‘positive’ and looking to make ranking money instead of focusing on a specific goal.
“World Championships hold the key to shooting up the rankings it's the #1 focus for anyone in the top 128. Just going to prepare for the day in front of me, and the rest will take care of itself.”
“Like all the Super Series, my goal is to find my proper rhythm and just play good darts. I put too much pressure on myself recently expecting the worst with getting home etc. When I settled in and realized it's out of my control and focused on the darts, I played much better. So, going in with a positive attitude, just going to be on a mission to turn a profit. I'll be happy to play anything that I qualify for.”
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