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Natalie Gilbert on her journey after suffering a debilitating stroke to winning the final PDC Women’s Series Event of 2023; Next up on the Sky Sports Darts calendar is the 17th staging of the Grand Slam of Darts from November 11-19 at the Aldersley Leisure Village

Last Updated: 19/10/23 1:06pm

Natalie Gilbert became a PDC Women’s Series winner in Wigan, but her life story is quite remarkable

Natalie Gilbert has become the most famous sportsperson in Tamworth after becoming the 10th player to win a PDC Women’s Series winner, but her journey to the top is simply remarkable.

Gilbert scooped the £2,000 top prize at the Robin Park Tennis Centre in the final PDC Women’s Series Event of the year.

Having produced a series of tenacious displays, Tamworth thrower Gilbert opened up on her remarkable story which saw her wheelchair-bound for eight years after suffering a stroke before taking up darts to help aid her recovery.

Gilbert was still on cloud nine the morning after her PDC Women’s Series success

In Wigan, the 40-year-old defied a late onslaught from Adriana van Wijgerden-Vermaat in round two, before demolishing three-time Lakeside Champion Anastasia Dobromyslova to reach the last 16.

Gilbert, who also whitewashed Astrid Trouwborst in her opener, then recorded another clean sweep against Eleanor Cairns.

There, she overcame Noa-Lynn van Leuven in a topsy-turvy encounter, before surviving a match dart to deny Kirsty Hutchinson in a gruelling semi-final tussle.

This set up a showdown against Lorraine Winstanley in the Event 24 showpiece.

Gilbert led 2-0 and 4-2, and although Winstanley rallied in her bid to double her PDC Women’s Series tally, it was Gilbert who kept her cool to wrap up a landmark victory.

The next morning Gilbert was at Birmingham Airport ready to board her flight to Cyprus for a well-deserved break in the sun with her eight-year-old daughter, mother and cousin.

Speaking to Sky Sports, she said: “I’m still on cloud nine – I haven’t stopped smiling.

“During my matches, I was telling myself, ‘I could’. I knew that if I stayed calm then there was no reason why I couldn’t, so when the double five went in, there was insurmountable relief and joy.

“I felt like things just fell into place, like it was destined to be mine if you believe in such a thing because I survived some scrapes and comebacks. Things just came together.”

Speaking about the prize money, Gilbert quipped: “It has already gone because my daughter has picked a new holiday destination and she told me what crocs she wants next.”

It’s a miracle Gilbert is even playing darts having suffered a stroke in 2008 which left her in a wheelchair for eight years.

“I suffered functional hemiplegia on my left side so I was wheelchair-bound before I was fully able to mobilise independently,” she said. “I was 25 at the time, but it happened out of the blue. I was devastated and couldn’t quite comprehend it.

“Getting into darts was an accident. I was actually helping run poker tournaments in pubs and there was a dart board in the pub called ‘The Pint Pot’ in Mere Green, so just for a bit of fun I would go over and try and throw.

“I enjoyed it and having physio at the time, I remember speaking to the therapist telling her I was throwing a few darts and she said I could use that as part of my physio to help learn to balance.

“It just grew from there but others knew [I had a talent for the sport] more than I did. I went from pub teams, to Super League, then being selected for the county and then my country over the span of over eight years.”

Fallon Sherrock, Beau Greaves and Mikuru Suzuki have taken women’s darts into the mainstream

Gilbert feels “surprised” by the amount of media attention that she has received but admits the accolade has been great.

Speaking about her future, she said: “My ambition is to try and go as far as my game will let me. I’m now in a provisional spot for the Matchplay so I need to keep working to try and solidify that spot.”

The Midlands star also hailed the impact Sherrock, Beau Greaves, and Mikuru Suzuki have made as well as what Deta Hedman has done for diversity in darts.

“Fallon, Beau and Mikuru are a force to be reckoned with, aren’t they? If you want to be the best you’ve got to beat the best,” she said.

“They’re definitely women you’ve got to look up to. Their work ethic is what we all aim to achieve in the game – to reach those highs.

“It’s great to be able to speak with them on a friendship level and hear about their journey and the advice because you can never stop learning to push your game on.

“Women’s darts can only go from strength to strength and there’s more people talking about coming to our events. They need to stop talking and actually come and see the growth of our game.”

Gilbert says darting pioneer Deta Hedman has helped her make progress in the game

Discussing her darting heroes, Gilbert added: “When I first played for Warwickshire, I played alongside Trina Gulliver for many years and she gave me plenty of advice and then there’s Deta Hedman.

“People in my circle, that don’t necessarily know anything about darts, approach me so hopefully we’ll spread the word and the sport will grow.

“We are of a small minority playing darts but there are a number of reasons behind that. I know a lot of diverse cultures that don’t know or understand the sport so it’s looking from the bottom up.”

Watch the seventeenth staging of the Grand Slam of Darts from 11-19 November at the Aldersley Leisure Village. Stream your favourite sports and more with NOW

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