Luke Littler - the 16-year-old who is changing darts

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Luke Littler points to his forehead during a match at the 2023-24 PDC Darts World ChampionshipImage source, Getty Images

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Luke Littler has become a sensation at the 2023-24 PDC Darts World Championship

Luke Littler has taken the PDC World Darts Championship by storm on his debut, aged just 16.

On Tuesday, he extended his fairytale run with a dominant victory against 2018 world champion Rob Cross at Alexandra Palace in London.

Victory secured a place in an all-England final against Luke Humphries or Scott Williams on Wednesday.

Littler has already eliminated some big names and pocketed £200,000 for his progress so far. If he goes all the way and wins the tournament, he would earn £500,000.

He has made history by getting this far - the previous youngest World Championship finalist is Kirk Shepherd who was 21 years and 88 days in 2008.

The youngest winner is Michael van Gerwen, who was 24 years and nine months when he won his first title in 2014.

BBC Sport takes a detailed look at the sport's brightest young star.

Littler had only played four senior matches at PDC premier events prior to his World Championship debut.

He qualified for the UK Open on his 16th birthday in January 2023 and, in March, reached the fourth round of the competition before being knocked out by Czech youngster Adam Gawlas.

Littler's performances at this year's World Championship have seen him average 100 or more in three of his five matches, making him one of only two players to do so at the tournament.

He became the youngest player to win a match at the World Championship with his first-round win over Christian Kist on 20 December.

Arguably his best victory came against five-time world champion and childhood hero Raymond van Barneveld to reach the last 16.

He followed with an impressive 5-1 quarter-final triumph over Northern Ireland's Brendan Dolan. before Cross was dispatched 6-2 in the final four.

Littler has also become a viral sensation on social media with more than 300,000 Instagram followers, who include footballer James Maddison. The Tottenham Hotspur and England midfielder invited him to watch Spurs' win over Bournemouth with him on Sunday.

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Watch: Luke Littler plays darts as a toddler in home video footage

Littler's success was 'inevitable'

Many of the world's best sports stars begin their careers at a young age and Littler was just 18 months old when he threw his first dart.

The youngster, who was born in Runcorn and lives in Warrington, was throwing darts at a magnetic board and has played "non-stop" ever since.

"By the time he was 10 we knew he was too good for his age," Karl Holden, Littler's former coach at the St Helens Darts Academy, told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"He couldn't play in the PDC or the big time until he was 16, so we just let him enjoy himself and he's just worked his way through the ranks.

"He went from under-10s to under-14 leagues and, before he was 11, he was playing in the under-21s, just simply because he was too good for anybody else."

Littler's trophy cabinet has filled up quickly, having already won 12 adult titles and the 2023 PDC World Youth Championship.

At the age of 14, he hit a nine-darter during the Junior Darts Corporation (JDC) Masters Tournament, further demonstrating his undoubted potential.

"He can win it," added Holden of this year's World Championship. "We knew he was good enough, we knew that before he started.

"A lot of people in the darts shop were saying 'who is this Luke Littler?' but I was saying he's a good outside chance.

"Many didn't know who he was, but I think everyone knows who he is now. Every time I put the TV on he is there."

Image source, Robin Jones - AFC Bournemouth

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Littler and his family sat with Tottenham Hotspur and England midfielder James Maddison during Tottenham's win over Bournemouth

Darts' kebab-loving kid

Littler clearly has ability, but his charm and charisma have played a key role in his new-found fame.

And he's lapped up the limelight at this year's event, especially the banter from fans who cheekily chanted "you've got school in the morning" during some of his matches.

He only finished his GCSEs last summer and is now fully focused on his darts career.

After beating Andrew Gilding in the second round, Littler celebrated by treating himself to "a kebab and a can of Tango". He has since been offered free kebabs for life by one London kebab house.

Outside of darts, Littler says he leads a pretty simple life.

"[I] just wake up, play on my Xbox, have some food and have a chuck on the board, go to bed and that's it," he said.

His mum Lisa believes he is ready to win now, telling Sky Sports earlier in the tournament: "I'd like to say he can go all the way because he does pick up his game when he comes up against bigger players."

Littler's form has seen him earn plenty of plaudits from across the world of darts, including five-time World Championship semi-finalist Wayne Mardle.

"He's an absolute darting freak - and that is a term of endearment," said Mardle.

"The world should be standing up and taking notice and absolutely taking notice of what he's doing. It's not ended yet, he's still in."

Image source, Getty Images

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Littler has averaged more than 100 in four of his six matches so far at the 2023-24 PDC Darts World Championships

What next?

Incredibly Littler was only ranked joint-164th before the World Championship. His magical run is set to see him climb more than 100 places in the rankings. A tournament win would see him close in on the top 10.

He is also expected to earn a one-year professional tour card for 2024, awarded to the top 64-ranked players following the conclusion of the Worlds.

There have also been rumours he could be given the chance to compete in the Darts Premier League, though Littler has suggested that may be a step too far at this stage.

"I've seen what the Premier League does [for your profile]," he said.

"You have Monday, Tuesday pro tours, and then Wednesday is the Euro qualifiers and you've got the Premier League. The weekend is the Euro Tour.

"I think the PDC are going to keep me out of it, because that will just be gruelling like everyone has said."

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