By Richard Edwards
19 DECEMBER 2016 • 6:30PM
Qiang Sun will make his eagerly-anticipated return to the Alexandra Palace stage when he makes his second appearance in the William Hill World Darts Championship tonight.
The Chinese thrower was one of the unlikely heroes of last year’s tournament, embracing the Ally Pally crowd during his 2-0 defeat to Mick McGowan in the preliminary round on his debut.
Sun came through a 32-player field in the China Qualifier in October to secure another taste of the big stage.
With this year seeing the launch of the Shanghai Darts Masters in the PDC’s World Series, Sun explains how darts is growing in his home nation.
“In China, there are many dart players,” he said. “Also, there are more tournaments being held around China in the last few years.
“It’s a good phenomenon with a message of hope in developing darts in China.
“Right now, soft tip darts is relatively more popular in China because of its strong recreational effects.
“However, tournaments for steel tip darts are much less than there are for soft tip darts.
“The most influential event would be the China Qualifier for the PDC World Championship.
“The PDC China Qualifier has expanded in the form of regional tournaments, and as a result covers a large regional span in China.”
Sun is currently scheduled to fly back to China on Wednesday, but that could be cancelled if he could pull off what would be classed as two big upsets this evening.
First up for Sun is the newly crowned Unicorn World Youth champion Corey Cadby, who many are tipping to have a big run in his debut year at Alexandra Palace.
Should he get past Cadby, Sun would then take on 28th seed Joe Cullen, who has reached two TV quarter-finals this year, but in six previous appearances has failed to get past the last 64 of the World Championship.
For Sun, though, his main ambition is to once again embrace the experience of playing in what is now regarded as the biggest tournament in darts.
“I’ve played darts since 1998,” he said. “It has been 18 years and darts has enriched my life a lot.
“For my happiest memories, I would say it was darts that brought me to my wife. She’s a darts fan as well.
“I just want to take a good rest before the big event, so I’ve got nothing special planned to prepare for it.
“Besides playing darts, I love spending time with my pets. I have two dogs at home.”
Known in China as ‘Da Xian’, which means ‘the Crane’ in English, Sun hopes to have many more opportunities to play on the big stage, but admits there are several contenders coming through the ranks in his country.
“Yuanjun Liu and Xiaochen Zong, who I’ve come into company with this year, are both great dart players in China,” he said.
“For the expectation in 2017, I would love to keep playing darts and enjoy the moments when playing darts. I wish I could come to Ally Pally again next year.”