Lucky D’s views on BDO Worlds, darts in Lithuania, future aims and more
We are delighted to be joined by Lithuanian darts ace Darius Labanauskas, who shares his exclusive thoughts to Sam Barnard for Darts World ahead of his fourth Lakeside appearance, in Part 6 of our 2018 BDO World Championship profile/interview series.
Lucky D has become one of the BDO’s most feared players in the past few years, having reached the quarter-finals of three Major tournaments since last year – the 2016 World Trophy, 2017 BDO Worlds and most recently the Finder Masters this December.
On top of that, he claimed the Latvian Open and Estonian Open titles this year too, while made it to the latter stages in many other events.
With winning records against the likes of Scott Waites, Wesley Harms, Ross Montgomery and darting friends Krzysztof Ratajski and Madars Razma in his career to date, as well as being renowned for his big checkouts, it is no wonder that Darius is one of the favourites at any tournament he enters these days.
Lithuania’s finest arrowsmith Labanauskas has a tricky opponent in Scott Mitchell in the first round at Lakeside this year, but will be keen to avenge his loss against him at the recent Finder Masters.
Darius talks to us about much of the above and more, including how he got into the sport, balancing life between living and working in Lithuania and travelling to play in tournaments, and darts in his homeland Lithuania.
So, read on for our exclusive Darius Labanauskas interview and profile, the sixth in our series, ahead of the 2018 BDO World Championship from January 6-14…
Darius Labanauskas profile
Date of birth: 26/07/1976 (age 41)
Place of birth: Kaunas, Lithuania
Nickname: Lucky D
Walk-on song: Infinity 2018 by Guru Josh Project
Darts used: Cosmo signature darts 24g
Sponsors: Cosmo, Fit Flight
Favourite double: Bullseye
Favourite checkout: 167 – the tournament biggest checkout on my Lakeside debut in 2015
Favourite tournament: BDO World Championship, Lakeside
Favourite country played in: The Netherlands
Toughest players faced: If I play well, no opponent is scary. Playing bad, I’m scared of all
Player to watch in future: Justin van Tergouw
Sports/darts hero growing up: Zydrunas Savickas, 4-time World’s Strongest Man from Lithuania
Best mate in darts: Madars Razma
Favourite food: Pica
Favourite film/TV show: Kingdom of Heaven, documentary films
Favourite band/music: Prodigy, pop music
Hobbies outside of darts: Driving a car and travelling with family
Ultimate darting ambition: To win every tournament I enter
Darius Labanauskas interview
Firstly, how excited are you ahead of your fourth successive BDO Worlds? What are your memories of last year, and do you believe you can equal or even better that quarter-final performance?
I hope to play the same as last year in the 2018 BDO World Championship or to go one step forward.
Memories from last year’s championship are very good, I got 5th place and I closed 10 legs [with checkouts of] 100 or more. That was the best result of all participants.
What is your assessment of your game at the moment? And how do you feel going into the Worlds?
After the summer I started to use longer shafts, and my average improved.
I am pleased with the way I feel inside on stage, I am getting more and more playing experience.
It is very important for me because I’ve played only four years in tournaments outside of the Baltic countries.
How is the popularity of darts back in Lithuania and the surrounding nations? Are there any rising players that can challenge for tournaments on tour like yourself in future?
Darts is getting more and more popular in Lithuania and around us. More people want to try this sport.
As for rising players I would mention Mindaugas Barauskas, whom I played with in the pairs to the final of the BDO Sweden Open.
And Ugnius Jankunas. He is 19 years old and became Lithuanian champion this year.
Growing up in Kaunas, how did you first get into darts? Was it always something you wanted to do? And what was the moment you believed you could make it in the sport?
It started with my friend, who had a dartboard with numbers 1-10. We played sometimes, until I saw an invitation in the newspaper to the tournament in Kaunas.
I liked the tournament very much, [so] started to enter clubs for training, and participating in Lithuanian national and Baltic ranking events.
My debut abroad was in 2006. I lost the first games in singles and pairs at the BDO Sweden Open and WDF Gold Cup, and decided it was not time to play in Europe yet.
After seven years in 2013, I went to the BDO Czech Open and with Paul Coughlin won the pairs. In the singles I got to the last 32.
After a few months, I reached the Bremen Gold Cup semi-finals, and in the biggest European BDO tournament, the Dutch Open, I got to the last 32.
After that great season, I got to my first BDO World Championship.
You, Krzysztof Ratajski and Madars Razma, from neighbouring nations Poland and Latvia, have notably impressed from that region. Do you keep in touch with them? And is it good for you to have others from your region to push you to become even better?
With Krzysztof, we talked to each other during the tournaments. Relationship with Madars is more close.
Now we play in different leagues but always keep an eye on each others performances, saying good luck before tournaments.
With Madars, we travelled together and played in many BDO tournaments pairs events – winning 10.
There are more players playing well than you mentioned in this region, but they rarely go to play outside their region.
Ratajski and Razma are beginning to impress in the PDC now. Have you thought about playing in more PDC events too?
2018 I will stay in the BDO, but will try myself in the PDC Nordic tours.
A few of them will take place in Lithuania.
You have winning records against those two and notable others too. Does that give you confidence knowing that you can beat the best on your day and win Major titles?
Deep down in my heart I dream to became World Champion. I think I can do it.
At the 2016 BDO World Trophy TV tournament, I won a match with an average of 102 (against Glen Durrant to reach the quarters).
I think I just need to keep such averages during all the tournaments, and I will have good chances to win.
Being based in Lithuania and having a job too, how do you balance that with travelling to darts events?
I have huge support from my wife, my employer is big fan of this sport and I can work to a convenient schedule. That helps me to relax and to play good.
Travelling to tournaments is of course exhausting. I travel by plane and after that I have to take a bus or train, because to rent a car just for my own is too expensive.
For example, to get to the English Open’s Selsey venue, it takes me 12-14 hours. After a few hours, after getting to the venue I already competing at the darts board.
And finally, are there any World Championship finals you remember watching as a spectator in the past, that perhaps inspired you?
The 2007 BDO World Championship final, Martin Adams vs Phil Nixon.
Martin led 6-0, but won only 7-6. Phil even lost but showed a great example – you have to try and fight to the very end.
Many thanks to Darius for speaking to us this week, and best of luck at Lakeside! Join us next time, where Turkish star Umit Uygunsozlu shares his thoughts to us in part 7 of our BDO Worlds interview series.