There will be no giant-killing acts from Paul Lim and Harith Lim in this year’s World Cup of Darts, as the Singaporean duo withdrew days before the start of the Nov 6-8 event.
Harith, who had made plans to fly to host country Austria on Tuesday, told The Straits Times: “With all the unfortunate things that have happened, health and safety are our main concerns and reasons for this decision.
“We are sad not to be able to participate, but we hope to be back next year.”
Last Friday, Austria reported more than 5,600 new coronavirus cases, forcing the government to reimpose partial lockdown measures from Tuesday to Nov 30.
On Monday, a terror attack left four dead and 22 wounded in Vienna, a three-hour drive from the tournament venue Salzburgarena.
While the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) did not respond to ST’s queries, it is understood the competition will still proceed but as a closed-door event.
The tournament, originally scheduled for June 18-21 at the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany, was first moved to the Premstattner Halle in Graz before it was relocated to its current location.
Portugal will replace Singapore and feature in the event for the first time.
Paul, 66, is a Hong Kong-based consultant and also had tickets to fly on Tuesday.
He said: “It is disappointing we cannot go and play, because we have done well in recent years, and we were looking forward to creating more upsets.
“But I’m also not young any more, and I was a bit worried about the virus to begin with. So, I guess it is better to be safe than sorry.”
It is disappointing we cannot go and play, because we have done well in recent years, and we were looking forward to creating more upsets.
He and Harith have competed at the annual tournament since 2014 and regularly beaten higher-ranked opponents.
In 2017, the unseeded pair stunned second seeds Scotland 5-2 in the first round, before overcoming Spain 2-1 to reach the quarter-finals. There they lost 2-1 to Belgium but still earned £14,000 (S$24,800).
Last year, they eliminated third seeds Wales in the first round, before losing to Japan. They collected £8,000 for their efforts.
Harith, 50, works for a property developer. He said: “This event has always brought the best out of us – we have often done damage when we play against the best.
“Perhaps we have a psychological edge because we don’t play on the PDC Pro Tour and have nothing to lose, while the pro players are under pressure to beat us. We always feel we have a chance of beating anyone, and it’s the same this year, so it’s a shame we won’t be there.”
While neither him nor Paul are playing full-time – they each have a job – the Covid-19 outbreak has affected them financially.
The PDC Asian Tour and soft-tip darts circuit have been suspended for most of the year, leaving few opportunities to compete.
Harith and Paul normally participate in 30 or more local and international competitions annually and can earn up to six figures in prize money. They have played fewer than five events this year.
Paul said: “The good thing about darts is we can practise on our own at home.
“As with any sport, practice is key to success, but things like confidence and match temperament can be built only through competition.”
The World Cup has seen other notable withdrawals, including Scotland’s defending champions Gary Anderson and Peter Wright, who lost to Singapore in 2017.