Last Uniblog I began a new “Technique Spotlight” feature by shining the beam of analysis on Phil Taylor. As the item seemed well-received (well, Kevin, Eddie, and Pete approved and there were some Facebook likes - thanks, folks – and by the way, Pete, Unicorn say polycarbonate SlikStik tops would break too easily), I’m going to continue the theme here by getting into my De Lorean to travel back to the 1980s and the first time I really studied a pro player’s throw at first hand. And that throw was the measured delivery of none other than Old Stoneface himself, Mr John Lowe (sorry, Eddie, maybe Barney or Gary Anderson next!).
To set the scene, there I was, conceptually resplendent in mullet, Magnum PI moustache, and Miami Vice jacket, with a plan for a “total design” dart that matched barrel, shaft, and flights into an optimal aerodynamic unit and the go-ahead from Unicorn to get prototypes made. To allow the flight characteristics to suit the widest range of players possible, the maths said the barrels should be not too long, with a curved profile and a fine-ish centred grip. But what the maths couldn’t say was whether such a design would be widely acceptable ergonomically.
Remember, back then it was only a decade since Unicorn had introduced the first commercial tungsten darts in 1972, so there was no great history of such designs to go by and not much point studying my collection of Jim Pike and Tom Barrett brass for inspiration. What’s more, the dominant player at the time, at least in terms of the World Championship, was The Crafty Cockney, and Eric’s darts were, unhelpfully, long “pencils” to suit his highly individual grip.
Luckily, reassurance for my concept came in the form of the 21gm tungsten barrels used by John Lowe, already a legend of the game. His weapons of choice were short (around 35mm – over 5mm shorter than the designs I was proposing) with a curved nose and a central ringed grip. That gave me the confidence to prototype what eventually became – when the right manufacturing and marketing tools became available over 20 years later – Sigma 970s.
As a side issue, that aspect to their genesis might help explain why another legend of the game, The Power (and congrats to him on winning his 6th Premier League title) should later happily switch back and forth between modified versions of 970s and John Lowe Hero barrels, although in the end he’s settled (at least for the moment!) on the latter.
But returning to John, his influence on the design of proto-Sigmas also extended to helping with testing, even using early versions of Sigma Pro flights in a televised event (which, fortunately for me, he won!). Nonetheless, it’s not that that makes me commend to anyone a study of the technique I’m about to be put under a 1.21 Gigawatts spotlight (it’s not all nerdy sci-fi references here, you know, you get some Ludacris rap ones as well!).
And on that note, suffice to say I’ll be back (to mangle more movie quotes) in the future!
TECHNIQUE SPOTLIGHT – John Lowe
Writing this I found it tempting to draw comparisons between the Lowe throw and that of The Power I considered last time, so, never being one to resist temptation, that’s exactly what I shall do! There are many similarities, including the balanced stance, the lack of body or head movement, and the measuring-up of the target with the dart before a deliberate drawback with classically vertical forearm and very controlled wrist-cock. However, possibly of more interest are the differences.
One such is that John, the taller man, angles his front foot at maybe 60 degrees to the oche, finding this more comfortable than Phil’s theoretically ideal sideways position (so do I, incidentally – although that’s no recommendation!). Then there is the issue of location on the oche. In the 80s I recall John being the opposite of Phil in being right-eye dominant, but nonetheless sharing the same theoretically optimal central throwing position.
However, I notice that he has since moved from there, and the last time I saw him play he was throwing from Barney’s right-hand end position. John could no doubt tell you why this is better than I, but I suspect it may be a function of some change in the functioning of those unblinking eyes.
Moving on to the grip, John’s technique is basically to rest the dart on his thumb, which enables him to locate the dart in the same position every time. His barrels are hence, as I said earlier, ringed around the centre of gravity like my prototype Sigmas. The remainder of his grip then consists of his index finger curling across and above the dart to oppose the thumb and the second finger doing the same to rest on the junction between barrel and point. I must admit I consider his central pen-holder grip to be more natural than The Power’s rear-biased style and thus the better to copy, despite the possible lateral accuracy advantage of the latter.
John’s thumb raises slightly during drawback and then lowers fractionally again at release, resulting in a preparatory little quarter-turn clockwise of the dart preceding counter-clockwise flight spin and the dart being released “flighted” with point slightly up and landing with point slightly down, in contrast to The Power’s point-down push and point-up impact. Post-release extension is good without being as pronounced as Phil’s, possibly due to John’s greater reach.
As last time I could say more, but I reckon I’ve provided enough detail to allow the throws of these two all-time greats to be properly compared and contrasted. What more could any darts fan want from an on-line blog? Polite answers only, please!