Darts fans have been left seething after world number one Michael van Gerwen was not one of the five stars nominated for Netherlands’ Sportsman of the Year award. The nominees were announced at the annual Netherlands Sports Confederation gala over the weekend, but the omission of Van Gerwen was extremely contentious.
Van Gerwen has enjoyed unprecedented success in 2016, winning a total of 25 titles; breaking Phil Taylor’s previous record of 24 set back in 2009. ‘Mighty Mike’ has also amassed a staggering £1.5 million in prize money on the PDC Order of Merit, although reports indicate he was never a serious candidate for nomination.
The five Dutchmen nominated include F1 driver Max Verstappen, cyclist Tom Dumoulin, gold medal sailor Dorian van Rysselberghe, swimmer Ferry Weertman and speed-skater Sven Kramer.
Jeroen Bijl, chairman of the NOC*NSF, insisted that the criteria states that a non-Olympic sport must have 55 different nationalities represented at their World Championships. However, only 16 different nationalities were represented at the Alexandra Palace last year, including 34 English players and ten Dutchmen.
Nevertheless Bijl’s statement caused real conjecture, because Max Verstappen also doesn’t meet the NOC*NSF’s criteria. Formula 1 is not recognised as an Olympic Sport and there are only 22 drivers within the entire World Championship field.
However, according to Bijl, Formula 1 comes under the umbrella of Motor Sport, therefore combined with karting, rallying and auto-cross, Verstappen’s nomination is considered legitimate.
Van Gerwen has won all six TV ranking titles in the calendar year of 2016, including the UK Open, World Matchplay, World Grand Prix and the Grand Slam of Darts. MvG has also won a number of non-ranking TV events, such as the Premier League, the Unibet Masters and the World Series of Darts Finals.
Bijl revealed that Van Gerwen’s name was mentioned in the final reckoning but his failure to win last year’s World Championship, where he was beaten in the last 16 by his compatriot Raymond van Barneveld, meant he didn’t make it through pre-selection.
“The criterion is very important, but not decisive. For example, we also look at the impact of a performance in the Netherlands. We have to realise that its performance impact. This is also a point where we may need to look more to the future,” Bijl admitted.
Darts has previously received recognition at national sporting awards. Sixteen-time world champion Phil Taylor was one of ten nominees at the UK’s 2010 Sports Personality of the Year and ‘The Power’ received an incredible 72,095 votes; finishing second to legendary jockey AP McCoy.
Unfortunately Van Gerwen hasn’t received the same recognition despite his astonishing success this year and fans have reacted furiously to the news, with many on social media threatening to boycott the award’s gala on December 21st.
The Dutch Darts Association (NDB) released a statement on Monday, claiming that the failure to nominate Michael demonstrated “a regrettable lack of recognition and appreciation of Darts, and Michael van Gerwen as a fantastic athlete.”
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC