Darts star Fallon Sherrock had the world at her feet at the start of year.
Dubbed the “Queen of the Palace” after becoming the first woman to beat a man at the World Championship, she had tournaments, work and trips abroad lined up for months and an army of new fans.
Then coronavirus hit. Darts shut down overnight, Fallon was forced to shield due to a health issue and also had to juggle looking after and home-schooling her young autistic son Rory.
You might think she’d be fuming at the situation. But just as cool and composed as she is on the oche, Fallon is feeling very positive about the future.
She says: “I didn’t imagine this was how it was going to go, and when everything shut down I did get a bit down. I had all these opportunities and I just wanted to play darts. I was gutted.
“But most of what I was going to do has been postponed rather than cancelled, which is good because I’m not losing out on anything.
“I still get to do the things I was really looking forward to.
“And I’m happy because it’s given me a chance to get my energy back. I’d been so busy and I wasn’t used to it so this has been a little break. Now my battery is charged and I’m looking forward to getting back into it.”
That’s not to say it’s been easy for Fallon. After Rory, now six, was born she developed a kidney issue and had to take medication that weakened her immune system. This means she’s had to shield during the pandemic and is still wary of going outside.
“My immune system is so low, I literally catch a cold as soon as there’s one going round,” she says. “I don’t want to put myself in a situation so I don’t go out unless I really have to and there’s plenty of social distancing.”
Rory’s autism has meant it’s been a struggle to keep him entertained – never mind the dreaded home-schooling.
Fallon, 26, says: “Keeping him entertained has been so hard. I’ve been trying to put in my darts practice but Rory just wants to play as well.
“I tried to do as much home-schooling as I could but with the autism, his attention span is very limited.
“At home there’s so much else for him to do – watch TV, play with his toys, go out in the garden – I was lucky to get 10 or 15 minutes to sit down with him.
“I’m not a teacher so I’m just trying to teach him the way I think but I don’t know if that’s going to work. I’ll have to see when he goes back to school. I don’t know how teachers do it!”
Milton Keynes ace Fallon won the hearts of darts fans after beating Ted Evetts and 11th seed Mensur Suljovic in the PDC World Championship at London’s Alexandra Palace last December – becoming the first woman to triumph over a man there.
Fans wore masks bearing her face and replicas of her trademark pink shirt to show support.
She hopes to be back next month playing at the World Series of Darts Finals, alongside the likes of Michael van Gerwen, Peter Wright and Gerwyn Price in Salzburg, Austria, depending on what happens with the quarantine regulations.
“I’m excited to hopefully get back,” she says. “It will be great to be on a stage again and play some decent darts. I’ve actually missed playing darts!”
Even though live darts has resumed with the PDC Premier League, it’s behind closed doors. Fallon jokes it doesn’t matter to her as she’s used to not having crowds cheering her on.
She says: “For someone watching, the crowd makes it but as a player you don’t really hear anything – it blurs out because you need to focus.
“I’ve never had a massive crowd anyway so I’m used to playing with nothing behind me. Well except for Ally Pally of course!”
One of Fallon’s main aims has been to prove women can play just as well as men and smash stereotypes about darts players. And it looks as if her efforts, and success, are already paying off.
The PDC is now staging a four-event Women’s Series in October – the first such event the corporation has held – giving female players the chance to qualify for the World Championship in December. Fallon is planning to take part and says: “I’ve been saying for years we need more opportunities and now we’ve got the chance to prove ourselves. We have something to play for.
“There’s so many more women who can play like I can, but we never had the opportunity. Now we can show we can play against the men. We deserve it.
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“I 100% want to be back on the stage at Ally Pally. I’m going to put the hours in and I’m so determined to qualify again.
“It was an amazing experience and I’d love to live it all over again.
“I just want to start playing again, winning games and qualifying for as much as I can.”
Fallon’s newfound fame has also come with some bonus side effects –such as appearing on her favourite comedian Jack Whitehall’s recent Sporting Nation show.
“He sent me a message saying I was in his show and I was absolutely gobsmacked,” laughs Fallon. “I’m such a big fan and now he’s talking about me.”
She has also auditioned for Dancing On Ice but is waiting to hear back.
“I’m hoping no news is good news, right?” she says. “I have worked with a few famous people too but I can’t say any more until it comes out.”
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