The Big Interview with IRINA ARMSTRONG

Unicorn Darts prize winners:
Georg Svec, Joe Norton and Arthur Martell
All win their choice of Unicorn Darts.


From MM : Hi Irina, I can see your progress since you first started playing darts has been very rapid to get up towards the top. Have you had any real problems to deal with in this time ( being a woman ) that have affected your game, and if you havent as yet, how do you think you will deal with them if any were to come? Best wishes for the future

Irina:Hi MM, I have had many problems, some more serious than others, since I first started. Some certainly affected my darts, but I have always had people around me to help out so I could concentrate as much as I could on my game, like my husband for instance. When you want to do well it's important to have a person or people around you that truly believe in your ability and can help shoulder the burdens. I actually find than I am so motivated and love to play so much that when I stand at the oche with my darts in hand most problems just seem to fade away from my thoughts.

From Arthur Martell : Hey there Irina, I too Love the game of darts and I got interested in the game watching my dad play and I always like to ask the pro's what inspires you in your quest? How did you get started playing? And I would like to wish you the best in your career.

Irina: Hi Arthur, My interest first started when my husband bought a bar in Holland and I watched the number 1 darts team play there. They were incredible to watch and I wondered how they managed to keep hitting the trebles and doubles so easily, the effect of watching them made me want to try. So I trained and found I was actually not a bad player from the beginning. Its in my nature that whatever I do, I try to be the best I can.

From Anne Kramer : Hello Irina, I have been chatting a bit with your hubby John about ladies darts in America. He recently mentioned that you were off to Finland on your own, did not speak much English, and were hoping to get by on your Russian and Dutch? My question was....does this affect you in any way as far as your comfort level for the event?...and does it affect your game in any way? Cheers from the USA !

Irina: Hi Anne, At first I was always nervous about going to a tournament without John to help with everything. Now I am only nervous on the way to a tournament, but once I am there I find that just about everyone is so helpful and has so much respect for me that the nerves soon disappear. What was good in Finland was that there were many people there that spoke russian, from Latvia and Russia, and also there were many people from Holland and the dutch people generally speak good german. I felt “at home “ quite quickly. The darting world, I find, is a very friendly world, no matter where you go its easy to make friends.

From Warren : Hi Irina, since shifting to Unicorn, you won 2 tournaments in a row. Do you put that down to the support and help from Unicorn? I also notice that Avalon has made the LDA Forum, are you finding that a help as well?

Irina: Hi Warren, Being with Team Unicorn has to be one of the highlights of my darts career so far. The fact that a company that leads the way in its products, innovation, and its support has shown belief in me has given me so much confidence. Everytime I step to the oche I want to reward them for their belief in me.
My husband John, aka Avalon, is not only involved in the LDA forum but also in the LDA itself. This has helped in a number of ways. Firstly his belief and desire to see ladies darts succeed in becoming a much bigger sport is a passion we both have in common. Also his involvement has led to more friendships being formed within the darting community.

One thing he wants to do soon is to get more interest from your area of the world in the LDA and its goals.

From Nicolai : Dear Irina, First do you have someone to practise with regularly, and if you had the choice who would be your favorite practice partner and second how many hours a day do you spent in front of the board? Thanks and all the best.

Irina: Hi Nicolai, Unfortunately I dont have a regular practise partner. I do have a number of people I can always train with but I would prefer to have a regular partner. My choices would be, in no particular order, Phil Taylor ( who wouldn't ), Trina Gulliver, Francisca Hoenselaar, and Anastasia Dobromyslova. Anastasia has come to stay on more than one occasion and we often train together when we go to a tournament together, but I couldn't say it was 'regular'.

As for how many hours a day I train, I cant really be too specific. They are so many variables, my 2 children being one of them. I do, however, try to train for several hours a day ( maybe 4 or 5 ) for a week or two before a big tournament.

From Greg Kanes : Hello Irina, Congratulations on all the success you have achieved in the world of Darts. I come from south Africa and was was wondering how you have been received by the members of the professional darting ranks. Were you easily accepted by your peers or is it a difficult process. Also, have you competed against men in any televised competitions and do you think that women and men should compete together more regularly?

Irina: Hi Greg, Firstly thankyou for the congrats.

On the question of my acceptance, I can't say it was particular hard to be accepted by my peers. What seems to have happened is that after my first win against a 'name', people simply wondered was I lucky or a good player, after the second win people started to take notice and now I believe I have the respect and friendship of many top players.
I have never competed against a man in a televised event, although every week I play against men for my local team. As the only woman in the top division I have no choice, not that it is a problem as I have won far more this season than I have lost. As for women competing against men in big tournaments I personally believe men and women should have thier own tournaments, as they do in other sports. I can't say exactly why, but the top ladies in the world are not in the class from the top men, they never have been and maybe we never will be. Perhaps its our hormones, perhaps its our lack of natural strength compared to men, maybe its to do with concentration span.

Don't get me wrong, I have played and lost against Francis Hoenselaar where, in order to win from her, I had to throw 108 average, Francis was simply superb, but it was one match. Its just that men do it time and time again on a much more consistent basis, an ability we women seem to lack, but then again.......... I hope to reach this level of consistency.

From David L : Russia isn't known as a major darting nation, so I was wondering how you got into the sport & how you plan to make Russia a top player in darts?

Irina: Hi David, You're right Russian isn't known as a major darting nation, how I got into darts I answered above. I would love to get darts to grow in Russia but it will be no easy task as the country is just so huge. I think one way I can help though is to become world champion, then maybe Russia will give more publicity to the sport in all forms of the media, as they have done tennis over the years.

Just look at the ladies tennis rankings now and see how many russians are in the top twenty. I think by winning a world title can help bring more attention to darts in my home country.

From Georg Svec, USA : Irina, You have had quite a year- signing with Unicorn, getting a website dedicated to you, and winning several major tournaments. Has your success sunken in yet, or are you still in awe of everything happening so quickly? Also, how does it feel to play the people you have watched and wanted to compete against for years?

Irina: Hi Georg, It has been quite a year hasn't it?

I don't mean this to sound at all arrogant in anyway but I have believed for a while that I could win a major tournament or two. The Unicorn sponsorship is the thing that hasn't sunken in yet.

I think about it a lot Phil Taylor, Unicorn, John Part, Unicorn, John Lowe, Unicorn, etc etc, and amongst all these great players, legends, comes Irina Armstrong, Unicorn. It really is hard to explain the feelings.

I laughed a little about the “dedicated website “ when I read it. I have had a website for a long while just no one ever visited it before, because hardly anyone knew me.

I have played against so many top players now but everytime brings an air of excitement for me, I love playing against the best it helps me to judge exactly where I am with my ability. I also think many of the top players enjoy playing against me.

From Joe Norton, USA:
1. Many players have mentors such as Phil Taylor with Eric Bristow, Adrian Lewis with Phil Taylor and so on – players that take a young dart professional under their wing and show them the intricacies of the sport itself and all the surrounding business. Do you have such a person in your life?

2. Some players have regular practice partners and, in fact, it is not unusual for a mentor to be a student's practice partner. Having read that Ade has recently taken on Colin Osborne as his regular practice partner, I wonder of there is someone that you spend hours at the practice board with and perhaps you can give some brief insight into your routine.?

3. Is there the equivalent of County league play in Germany where you live now?

4. Can you foresee yourself entering any men's events for a chance at larger prize money?

Irina: Hi Joe, I like it when people list questions 1, 2 etc so firstly thankyou for that.
1. No I don't have a mentor as such, but wouldn't it be great if Phil Taylor asked me to come train with him.

2. As I have answered earlier I don't have a regular practice partner, but since I answered the earlier question a number of ladies have asked to train with me. The main stumbling block is actually travel distances. My training routines very slightly from day to day. For instance in the past two weeks, playing 501, with my husband keeping score on his lap top, I have been on a finish so often after 9 or 12 darts, but my doubles have let me down too often, so I have been traing on doubles a lot lately. I sometimes use Bobs 27, sometimes using my original training programme of going for 40 with 3 darts, when I do that I move to 41, then 42 etc. When I play 501 my intention is to play 5 legs in a row under 21 darts. When I have succeeded with that then I move to ten legs in a row.

3. I live in Germany but I am just 2 minutes from the dutch border and I play league competition in Holland. I play in the “Ere” class ( premier league if you like ) in the Limburg region for two organisations, one on Thursdays and one on Fridays. I also play super league for an all girls team in Tilburg, Holland. The only all girls team in the super league. In Germany, unfortunately, in the area I live, its all soft tip.

4. In Holland there are many tournaments, mostly are Mens Open, and Ladies Open. Sometimes when it is just an “open” tournament and I do enter them as well if I have no other tournament on at the same time, depending on travel time, money to be won etc. When I do enter these tournaments I don't just go for the money I go to win from men.

From Charlotte Burgess : Hey Irina. My name is charlotte Burgess and i am currently playing for Andover invitation darts youth academy and i am in darts teams on a monday and friday night but i feel the thing that is bringing my darts down is my shots out, how do you practice and get to know your shoot outs off by heart and i also dont know how much time i should practice, how often do u practice and is there any advice you can give me as to how i can develop my darts more?

Irina: Hi Charlotte, My husband has read about the academy and has told me that great things are being done there.

You must be very proud to be a part of it.

Okay lets take your questions one at a time.

Shots out Much more important than 180's. I briefly mentioned earlier about a training method I use and have always used. I start with 40 and have to finish it with 3 darts. When I succeed with that I move to 41, then to 42 and so on. When you get better at finishing with 3 darts then you can make it harder for yourself by moving back down a number when you miss a 3 dart shot. For example, you throw 40 successfully, then 41, then 42, but you miss 43 then you move back to 42 again. What will happen is after a while you will learn exactly what to throw for without thinking when your first or second dart don't go where you want them to. Also watch the finishes on TV tournaments. 116 for instance you will see Barney normally go for T20, 20 double 18, others you will see go for T19, 19 tops. On 82. Double Bull double 16, or T14 double tops, both of these give you alternatives. When you throw single bull then 17 tops, when you throw single 14, then 18 double bull. Just two examples. Also don't be afraid of any double, with bull being the exception they are all the same size, and will all win legs or matches for you.

How much you should practice is a difficult one, it varies from person to person, and the quality of your practice is more important than quantity. What I will say is though, without practice you have very little chance to succeed. Try setting yourself a target to achieve when you practice, to equal or better your best leg from the day before, throw more 100+ scores than the day before, use fewer darts to hit the double with etc . Choose something for yourself. When you achieve that during practice, then don't feel a little guilty if you stop or have a break after all you have done as well as if not better than the day before.

Never get upset when you lose, everybody loses, and I mean everybody. By getting upset because you missed 6 darts at a double to win doesn't mean your missed darts will suddenly hit those doubles and you have won after all. Just try to figure out why you lost a game and then take that info into your next practice routine. Use your losses to make yourself a better player. More importantly. Never give up, and ENJOY every match win or lose ( just enjoy the wins more )

I would just like to thank everyone who asked a question and all good questions too. I hope that some of my answers will help people, such as Charlotte, to progress with her career. And if any of you ever see me at a tournament please come and say hello.

Regards and best wishes