Former world youth champion James Hubbard desperate to end his nightmare and regain PDC tour card
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015
One of Norfolk's brightest sporting talents is vowing to turn torment to triumph as he aims to get his career back on track.
James Hubbard, world youth champion in 2012, has been left devastated by the dramatic fall from grace which has seen him lose his place among the game's elite. And as he prepares to hit the practice board hard before trying to win his Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) tour card back, the 23-year-old admits he can't wait for the new year to arrive.
The Wymondham thrower said: 'It's been horrible. It feels like a bit of a fall from grace to a point.
'I got to something like world number 38, was really about to break through, and now I haven't even got my card.
'Some of the pros still come up to me now and are surprised I haven't got my card.
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'I struggled to sleep for a while just because you know it (darts) is your livelihood really.
'I didn't practice for a little while either. I went about two months without really looking at a dart, which probably did me good actually. It's the first time I've had time off from it since I was probably eight years old. I did have thoughts of having a year or two out but I'm feeling much more positive again now.
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'This year might have been a good thing. To come off tour for a year, regroup, and hopefully get back next year. It has been a horrendous year.
'But I'll be better for it and I'm positive about going to Q School (qualification school, January 2016) to try and earn my card back. I want to get back to the highs that I've had.
'It's quite disheartening really when people ask if you're still playing when you're trying your hardest. But I'm really positive, I'm enjoying my darts again and I'm starting to feel like I'm playing better.'
Hubbard shot to international prominence little more than three years ago when he beat Michael van Gerwen to lift the world under-21 trophy.
But while Van Gerwen is seen as the best player on the planet, the man who beat him in front of 10,000 people has spent the past year on the second-tier challenge tour and development programme.
The former Easton College pupil, who played on the main PDC circuit from 2012 to 2014, failed to qualify for the forthcoming world championships and has even swapped the oche for a paintbrush in his bid to climb back up the sporting ladder.
'I wouldn't say working as a painter and decorator for the past six weeks has been a wake-up call,' said the player, nicknamed Hotshot.
'I think it's been more about taking my mind off darts every day. If you're sitting around twiddling your thumbs you start thinking your throw isn't right and your preparation isn't right. You start over-thinking it and that's what's happened this year. By not being on tour and not being away every weekend I've been stuck doing nothing.
'By going back to work with dad (Vic) it's given me some nice income. Working with him is always good and to talk to him every day about darts – he was a professional himself for a little while – as he's got a lot of advice for me.
'It has been a good kick up the bum to sort myself out and get back on tour.'
See Saturday's EDP for more on Hubbard's story.
* Video shot and edited by Denise Bradley