Teenage sensation Littler wins Winmau World Youth Championship thriller

Luke Littler (Kieran Cleeves/PDC)

Teenage sensation Luke Littler was crowned as the 2023 PDC Winmau World Youth Champion following a thrilling 6-4 victory over Gian van Veen in Sunday's decider at Butlin's Minehead Resort.

Littler, who will celebrate his 17th birthday in January, has enjoyed a breakthrough 2023 campaign on the PDC circuit, scooping five Winmau Development Tour titles to claim a PDC Tour Card for 2024-25.

The Warrington thrower has been touted as one of the sport's most exciting talents, and he reaffirmed his credentials with victory over Van Veen, in a captivating contest featuring 13 maximums.

Littler showed no signs of big stage nerves with a 14-dart break in the opening leg, although Van Veen delivered an instant riposte, levelling with a 121 finish on the bull.

Littler regained the initiative after following up back-to-back 180s with a 12-darter in leg three, and he continued his blistering barrage to establish an emphatic 5-1 cushion.

Van Veen was staring down the barrel of a chastening defeat, but the Dutchman displayed remarkable brinkmanship to threaten an astonishing comeback.

The 21-year-old doubled his tally with a 94 checkout in leg seven, before converting clinical 100 and 120 finishes to reduce the deficit to a solitary leg at 5-4.

However, despite firing in a sixth maximum in leg ten, Van Veen missed a dart at double five to force a decider, and Littler capitalised to pin tops and cap off an exhilarating tussle.

“It’s amazing. I can’t put it into words,” reflected Littler, who averaged 102.16 and crashed in seven 180s to succeed Josh Rock as World Youth Champion.

“I flew out of the traps but Gian was coming back, and I’m just so glad I got over the line.”

Littler will now set his sights on a World Darts Championship debut at Alexandra Palace next month, as he aims to continue his stunning emergence in the sport's flagship tournament.

“I’ve got a two-year Tour Card secured and I have the World Championship coming up in a few weeks’ time,” added the 16-year-old.

“This will give me a massive boost playing in front of such a big crowd, and I cannot wait to get to Ally Pally now!”

Littler and Van Veen have also secured places in the 2024 Grand Slam of Darts by virtue of their run to the final, with the early rounds having been played in Milton Keynes back in August.

Littler swept aside former UK Open semi-finalist Keane Barry in the last 16, before averaging 101 in his semi-final success against Poland’s Sebastian Bialecki.

Van Veen, meanwhile, dumped out defending champion Rock in August’s quarter-finals, before edging out compatriot Wessel Nijman with a 103 average in a high-quality semi-final.

The Dutchman had topped the Development Tour Order of Merit ahead of Littler before the top two progressed to Sunday's Minehead decider, with the teenager this time taking glory.

2023 PDC Winmau World Youth Championship

Luke Littler 6-4 Gian van Veen
Winner £10,000 + place in 2024 Grand Slam of Darts
Runner-Up £5,000 + place in 2024 Grand Slam of Darts