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Last Updated: Monday, 29 December, 2003, 11:59 GMT
Overseas invasion gathers pace
John Boy Walton savours his 2001 win
Walton savours his 2001 success
Pride is at stake for the best of British on duty at the Lakeside World Professional Darts Championship.

John Boy Walton was the last Briton to get his hands on the trophy in 2001.

If none of his home nations compatriots can follow suit this year, it will result in a record run of "away" victories in the history of the tournament.

The overseas invasion in darts has gathered pace in the last decade.

Half of the last 10 champions have come from foreign fields, including defending champion Raymond van Barneveld.

The Dutchman won his third title 12 months ago, following on from Australian Tony David's victory in 2002.

WINNERS: THE LAST DECADE
1994: John Part (Can)
1995: Richie Burnett (Wal)
1996: Steve Beaton (Eng)
1997: Les Wallace (Sco)
1998: Ray Barneveld (Ned)
1999: Ray Barneveld (Ned)
2000: Ted Hankey (Eng)
2001: John Walton (Eng)
2002: Tony David (Aus)
2003: Ray Barneveld (Ned)
Bold = overseas winners
Watching Australians win endless sporting events from cricket to tennis is one thing, but darts!

Seeing David win an Ashes battle against Mervyn King in the archetypal British sport really brought home the fact that darts is now a global game.

It is all a far cry from the infancy of the championships.

In 1978, despite 50% of the field coming from overseas and an American and a Swede reaching the last four, the final was a British affair, as it was for the following 15 years.

During that time, on eight occasions, the semi-finals were all English-affairs, including the four years from 1990.

But the split in darts and the creation of the WDC ushered in a new era and an international element.

In 1994, for the first time since the inaugural tournament, two overseas players reached the semis, with Canada's John Part going on to the final.

FOREIGN SEMI-FINALISTS
1978: Stefan Lord (Swe) & Nick Virachkul (USA)
1982: Stefan Lord (Swe)
1988: Rick Ney (USA)
1994: John Part (Can) & Magnus Caris (Swe)
1995: Ray Barneveld (Ned)
1998: Ray Barneveld (Ned)
1999: Ray Barneveld (Ned)
2000: Co Stompe (Ned)
2002: Tony David (Aus)
2003: Ray Barneveld (Ned)
Part, the first non-Briton to reach the showpiece match, overwhelmed Bobby George 6-0 to create a piece of darts history.

Ever since, overseas players have borne greater and greater influence at the tournament.

Van Barneveld followed Part's lead 12 months on in reaching the final, the first of four, but was unable to lift the trophy.

He made amends three years later, winning the first of two back-to-back titles.

And his win last year meant that for the second time in six years the overseas contingent denied the British brigade for two years on the trot.

This year the first-round field will include 10 foreigners, a host of names coming from the Netherlands, Australia, Finland, New Zealand and Norway.





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