Luke Littler is two matches away from becoming the youngest ever winner of the World Darts Championship.
At 16, he is five years younger than previous record-holder Jelle Klaasen, who was victorious back in 2006, and on Tuesday he faces 2018 winner Rob Cross for a place in the final. If he lifts the famous trophy on Wednesday night, he’ll join a long list of legendary figures who became world champions right at the start of their careers.
Littler, born in 2007, will celebrate his 17th birthday later this month, and he could do so having won darts’ biggest prize. However, he won’t be the youngest champion we have ever seen across all sports.
Martina Hingis was just 15 years and nine months old when she won the Wimbledon women's doubles title alongside Helena Sukova. Just six months later at the Australian Open, she became the youngest ever singles Grand Slam champion at the age of 16 years and three months. That record set in 1997 saw Hingis also become the youngest ever world number one in tennis, and she ended her career with five major singles titles, all won before her 20th birthday.
Michael Chang remains the youngest ever male winner of a Grand Slam, as he lifted the French Open in 1989 aged just 17 years and 110 days old. He usurped Boris Becker by just over 100 days, as the German famously won Wimbledon as an unseeded 17-year-old in 1985.
Great Britain also boasted their own teenage Grand Slam winner in 2021. Emma Raducanu had to win three qualifying matches just to make it to the main draw of the US Open, but went on a sensational run to lift the trophy at the age of 19 and remains the only qualifier (male or female) to win a Grand Slam tournament in the Open Era.
Moving away from the court and into the boxing ring, Wilfred Benitez still holds the title as the sport’s youngest ever world champion. He was just 17 when he defeated WBA light welterweight champion Antonio Cervantes on points, in front of his high school classmates. That fight took place in 1976, and Benitez would go on to become one of the all-time greats, winning 53 of his 62 bouts.
Meanwhile, in the heavyweight division, Mike Tyson’s record looks simply impossible to beat. He was 20 years and four months old, when he knocked out Trevor Barbick in 1986 to win the WBC heavyweight title. Iron Mike made his pro debut aged 18 years and 249 days, and had a record of 30-0 before his 21st birthday. Given the rate at which boxers used to fight, and the fact you only get two or three major fights a year nowadays, it is impossible to envisage anybody becoming a heavyweight world champion that quickly ever again.
In Formula One, Max Verstappen may be stealing the headlines for his domineering performances over the past three years, but the youngest ever world champion also came from the Red Bull garage. Sebastien Vettel was just 23 years and 133 days old when he won the 2010 Formula One world championship. The German is also the youngest ever pole sitter, and youngest ever points scorer in the sport’s history, as he burst onto the scene in 2007.
Pele remains the youngest World Cup winner in men's football - the Brazilian icon was just 17 years and 248 days old when he scored twice in the final against Sweden in 1958. Meanwhile, António Simões of Benfica (1962) is the youngest man to start and win a European Cup final, just edging out Manchester United’s Brian Kidd, who won club football’s biggest prize on his 19th birthday six years later.
Egan Bernal became the youngest winner of the modern Tour de France at 22 years and 196 days old in 2019, Stephen Hendry was 21 when he won the World Snooker Championship, while Marc Marquez was just 20 when he became MotoGP champion.
Littler has a chance to join all of these stars who have etched their name into sporting folklore. He’s already become a household name, but now it’s time for the 16-year-old to achieve true greatness. He was 150/1 to win the World Darts Championship when the tournament began, now just two matches separate him from achieving the unthinkable.
His destiny awaits.
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