An emotional Natalie Gilbert opened up on her extraordinary darting journey after celebrating her maiden PDC Women’s Series success in Wigan last weekend.
Gilbert came through an 88-player field to prevail in the final event of the 2023 season on Sunday, defeating former women’s world number one Lorraine Winstanley to triumph in Event 24.
The Warwickshire star is the tenth player to win a PDC Women’s Series title since the tour’s inception in 2020, and the seventh different winner in 2023 alone.
“I’m lost for words. It’s an amazing feeling. I can’t believe it,” admitted Gilbert, who won seven consecutive matches to secure the biggest payday of her career.
“I’m proud of myself. I’ve had some battles with myself within the game for so long, so to finally perform like I can in patches throughout the day is amazing.”
?️ "I'm lost for words. It's an amazing feeling!"— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) October 15, 2023
Hear from an emotional Natalie Gilbert, who celebrates Event 24 success to become just the tenth player to win a PDC Women's Series title!
What an incredible story! ? pic.twitter.com/ncJbNTbcua
Gilbert claimed the scalp of three-time Lakeside Champion Anastasia Dobromyslova on her way to glory at the Robin Park Tennis Centre, in a campaign which featured two whitewash wins.
She also edged out Kirsty Hutchinson in a dramatic semi-final showdown, before battling her way to a 5-3 victory against Winstanley to cap off a truly inspirational story.
“My darting journey started after a stroke, after being in a wheelchair,” recalled Gilbert, reflecting on her incredible rise over the last decade.
“I played darts to help with my balance, and never in a million years did I think that ten years down the line I’d be competing in events like these, let alone winning an event like this.
“There are some elite players here, so it’s nice to feel that you can compete and feel that you can be in and amongst them.
“It’s been a massive journey and one that I hope continues.”
Gilbert has made consistent strides on the PDC Women’s Series circuit over recent years, enjoying a run to her maiden final in June 2022, where she was edged out by Fallon Sherrock.
She also featured in the Event 19 semi-finals last October to cement her progress at the top level, although she struggled to replicate that success during the opening stages of the 2023 season.
The 40-year-old failed to go beyond the last 16 in any of the year’s first nine events, but after overcoming more personal adversity, she’s now hitting the heights once again.
“My Nan passed away [earlier this year] and it was at that point that I noticed the drop [in form],” she added.
“As much as I felt like I was dealing with my grief, the game was just nowhere to be honest. I felt like giving up at some points.
“I didn’t feel comfortable for so long; my throw didn’t feel right, my darts didn’t feel like they belonged to me anymore. The whole game was just alien for a long while.
“This is going to sound strange, but I went to my Nan’s grave one day and was having a chat, and I just felt a relief.
“The weight I was carrying on my shoulders just [went away], and from that day forward, I felt like me again. It’s all coming together.”
Following her Event 24 exploits, Gilbert has now moved into the provisional qualification places for the 2024 Betfred Women’s World Matchplay, which takes place at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens in July.
The top eight players on the 12-month Women's World Matchplay Order of Merit will qualify, and Gilbert currently occupies seventh spot, with an £800 cushion over Aileen de Graaf in ninth position.
“That’s beyond comprehension at the minute,” continued the Tamworth thrower, who is determined to build on her landmark win ahead of the 2024 season.
“I just want to enjoy this win and we will see what comes. I can’t ask for anything more at the minute, I’m over the moon.
“I’m going on holiday this week, but when I’m home, I’m back on the practice board. I can’t let the momentum drop, so it’s full steam ahead.”