Fallon Sherrock says female darts players need “more opportunities” after becoming the first woman to win a match at the PDC World Championship.
The 25-year-old booked her place in the second round with a 3-2 victory over Ted Evetts on Tuesday.
Sherrock was one of only two women to qualify for the 96-player event.
“I’m so proud to help put women’s darts on the map,” she told BBC Breakfast. “The women’s game has come on leaps and bounds and it was time we beat a man.”
Her historic victory came two years after she was subjected to online abuse about her physical appearance during the 2017 BDO World Championships, when she had a reaction to treatment she was receiving for a kidney problem, and Sherrock says those comments “inspired me to get better and prove everyone wrong”.
“I cannot repeat those comments but they were harsh, basically calling me a ‘big-faced person’,” she told the Victoria Derbyshire show.
“There are more women that can play to my level, if not better – we just need more opportunities. There are only two women that can qualify but maybe raising it to four would help.”
The 25-year-old from Milton Keynes – only the fifth woman to play in the event – was cheered on by a partisan crowd as she came from behind to make history at Alexandra Palace.
Sherrock thanked the crowd for their “amazing” support, saying it helped “me relax and boosted my confidence”.
“It is all just sinking in a little bit now,” she said. “Realisation is hitting me but I’m still speechless and over the moon.”
Sherrock comes from a family of darts players – her father and her twin sister Felicia still play the game – and first picked up a dart at 17.
“I love the darts,” she added. “The sport has come on – we do not just play in pubs any more and there are massive international competitions.”
Sherrock became ill after the birth of her son Rory in 2014 and has suffered from kidney problems since, with the treatment she was receiving in 2017 causing her face to swell and totally altering her appearance.
Why is her victory so significant?
Sherrock is only the fifth woman to play at the PDC World Championship.
Canadian Gayl King was the first in 2000, followed by Anastasia Dobromyslova of Russia in 2009.
Last year’s championship was the first at which two women were guaranteed entry and Dobromyslova was joined by England’s Lisa Ashton, both women losing in the first round.
Female players can reach the main draw as winners of the UK and Rest of the World qualifying events for women.
Japan’s Mikuru Suzuki, winner of the Rest of the World qualifier, took Englishman James Richardson to a deciding leg before losing 3-2 on Sunday, and Sherrock says Suzuki’s defeat “made her determined”.
“She came so close,” Sherrock, who won the UK qualifying event, told BBC Radio 5 Live. “I was screaming at the TV, egging her on, and I was gutted she didn’t get over the line.”
Are women at a disadvantage?
Sherrock says she has often faced sexist abuse online but her victory over Evetts has “just proved them wrong”.
“In the sport itself it’s fine, but online I have had constant sexist comments saying women are not as good as men,” she added.
“I do not see myself at a physical disadvantage, we just do not get the opportunity to play against these men which is why you do not see it more often.
“I practise about three to four hours a day and I will play one night a week, or at the weekend in a competition.
“As long as you put the effort in with your practice, the muscles in your arm stay relaxed and mental preparation is all it takes.”
Is enough being done to promote the women’s game?
The 25-year-old says promotion and more air time for the women’s game will help bridge the gap and encourage more women to take up darts.
“We do play against the men but it’s not televised,” she said. “If there was more on TV, it would be so much better.
“I hope [the victory over Evetts] inspires a lot of girls to take the sport up. It’s competitive and fun and I would recommend anyone to try it.”
Sherrock will face 47-year-old Austrian Mensur Suljovic in the second round, a tie she has been targeting since the “draw came out”, but she does not want her tournament to end there.
“Mensur is one of the best in the world so I’m very excited to play him,” she said.
“When the draw came out I was so determined to win my first round because I really wanted to play him.
“If I can just keep up with the [male players] and hit the doubles, who is to say I cannot win the championship?”