James Wade suffered a very difficult night at the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield, losing to both Adrian Lewis and Dave Chisnall, putting his play-off hopes in jeopardy. The Machine was lacking his usual conviction and enthusiasm, and shortly after his 7-1 defeat to Chisnall, his fiancée Sammi Marsh confirmed on twitter that Wade had pulled out of the triple header of Players Championship events in Barnsley, as he was ‘not mentally well’.
Wade has had well-documented battles with mental illness in the past. He was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder when he was admitted to The Priory Clinic in 2010, missing a number of tournaments in the process. The 32-year-old has been a fantastic ambassador for mental health and has spoken candidly about battling his demons in the past. This makes Wade’s achievements all the more remarkable. He has won 8 major PDC titles, including the World Matchplay, World Grand Prix and UK Open. Only Phil Taylor, Raymond van Barneveld and Michael van Gerwen have won more individual televised majors in the PDC.
He has been in an extremely good place over the last 12 months, arguably throwing some of the best darts of his career since being controversially omitted from the 2014 Premier League. He reached the World Grand Prix final last October, before winning the Unibet Masters a month later. He has also performed very well in the Premier League thus far. The support of Sammi has been a catalyst for Wade’s resurgence, but unfortunately, mental illness is an extremely complex issue that differs considerably based on each individual; unfortunately it can strike at any time.
Just last week, Wade took to his twitter account, voicing his disappointment at the comments of some of his few Premier League players who allegedly claimed that his medication gave him an unfair advantage. There is still a certain stigma attached to mental health within sport; it’s gradually eroding, but the lack of sensitivity displayed here is extremely debilitating to the cause. I sincerely hope this has not been a factor behind Wade’s recent struggle.
The PDC have extremely strict guidelines on doping, so the implication that Wade’s medication is performance enhancing is simply ignorant and misguided. However, on a personal level, the difficulty of contending with mental illness puts Wade at a distinct disadvantage, rather than the other way round. Wade’s medication is designed to ensure he can function sufficiently and feel healthy; that’s no advantage, merely a level playing field.
The PDC tour is intensely competitive and rewarding, but the schedule is mentally and physical gruelling for the elite players. After playing in the Premier League last week; Wade flew to Munich to compete in the German Darts Masters. The tournament concluded on Monday, before he competed twice on Thursday evening. Then there is three days of action in Barnsley from Friday-Sunday. It’s brilliant for the darts fanatics, but it must be extremely challenging for the players.
Wade is still in with a good chance of play-off qualification. He is level on points with 4th place Phil Taylor and the Aldershot Ace has acquitted himself superbly on his Premier League return. Hopefully, he can now rest and recuperate in order to be fresh and ready for next week. Wade has progressed so much over recent months and I’m sure he’ll be firing on all cylinders in the near future.
However, there are far more important things in life than simply throwing darts. Health and well-being certainly fall into this category. I’m sure I speak on behalf of the darting community in wishing James Wade well. Get well soon Wadey!