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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dart Professionals Aim to Please

Swords into plowshares and missiles into . . . darts.

When Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, one of the scrapped medium-range missiles was later converted into 100 dart sets.

Now, a handful of Russian dart enthusiasts have set out to take this noble sport to the people.

According to Nayil Aksyanov, General Secretary of the Russian Darts Federation, there are now about 100 darts clubs in Russia alone, and the sport is played in more than 50 Russian cities and in other ex-Soviet republics.

"When I first saw a darts board three years ago, I thought 'What is this rubbish? '" said Alexander Demidov, Russia's seventh-ranked player. "It wasn't long before I was spending my entire weekends practicing".

At the First Russian Open Darts Championship, which took place in Moscow's Hotel Sport last weekend, the crowd seemed more interested in their food and drink than in the podium action. But when the master of ceremonies called out a score of more than 100, the mob let out an approving roar.

Aksyanov states, with some pride, that his federation has been a member of the World Darts Federation since October 1991, and that players from former Soviet republics have participated in the previous two World Championships.

But the Russian dart craze could have been a cricket fad. Gerry Preskey, who has become the reluctant "godfather" of Russian darts, said he was approached several years ago by the British Sports Firm "Unicorn" for help in introducing cricket to Russians.

Preskey, life president of the Moscow Diplomatic Darts League, suggested that darts would be a better gamble and Unicorn agreed, shipping over 250 dart boards and darts sets in 1989.

It was Preskey's idea to convert the missile into darts and he invited his friend and former world champion, John Lowe, to play exhibition darts in

the Bolshoi Theater two years ago.

Demidov admits that "Russian darts still has a long way to go before it becomes top class", but he is optimistic that in three to four years it will be a different story.

There are plans to open a darts school on Moscow's Kalashnikov Pereulok. According to Demidov, the only qualities a good dart player needs are "intelligence and honesty".