Steve Beaton is making history at Alexandra Palace this year by featuring in his 29th consecutive World Championship, and ‘The Bronzed Adonis’ had more cause for celebration after dumping out eighth seed James Wade on Sunday evening to reach the last 16 for the first time in 16 years.
The 55-year-old made his World Championship bow in the BDO back in 1992 and he’s not missed one since. He crossed the darting divide to join the PDC in 2002 and his appearance in this year’s event equals Phil Taylor’s record of 29 consecutive World Championship visits.
The Alexandra Palace has not been a happy hunting ground for Beaton over recent years, but having dispatched Kyle Anderson 3-1 in his opener, the 1996 Lakeside world champion produced one of his best performances on the big stage to account for nine-time major winner Wade 4-2.
Beaton opened his account with an 84 finish on the bullseye, before producing 15 and 16-dart legs respectively to wrap up the opening set. ‘The Machine’ responded with majestic 125 and 122 checkouts after the break, only for Beaton to reel off three straight legs and double his tally.
Beaton spurned one set dart at tops for a three-set cushion in the third and Wade found the same target to reduce the arrears, only for ‘The Bronzed Adonis’ to rally and seal the fourth with an effortless two-dart 81 combination to restore his buffer.
Wade was at the point of no return but he completed a clean sweep in set five with a 107 average. However, the ever-green Beaton converted clinical 70 and 86 combinations to close in on victory, before exploiting crucial missed doubles from the left-hander to seal his progression via double 16.
Beaton’s victory was significant for a number of reasons. Not only did it mark his best World Championship showing for 16 years, it also saw him defeat Wade for just the fourth time in 24 attempts and banish some demons in the process.
The world No 8 has dominated the pair’s head-to-head record and has also accounted for Beaton on three separate occasions at Alexandra Palace, therefore the former Lakeside champion was delighted to finally record a positive result against the two-time semi-finalist.
“It was poignant that I had to play James. I never forget the 2013 game when I blew the 122 outshot and I thought I was going to blow it again tonight, but I’ve got over that hurdle. This is the first Christmas I can have at home and enjoy,” he told Sky Sports.
“I played in spasms again tonight. I got my head down and got on with the game but I kept letting him back in. You don’t get many chances against James and I’m just glad I won.
“It will be 30 [World Championships] next year but I enjoy every one. It gets harder all the time but that’s the whole point of the game. If it was easy you wouldn’t play it would you?”
Beaton will set a new record if he features in next year’s showpiece and that seems a virtual certainty given the remarkable consistency he’s displayed over the last three decades. He’s seeded 25th in this year’s event and his silky smooth throw remains integral to his longevity.
With Taylor having bowed out from the sport two years ago and Raymond van Barneveld departing the professional circuit, it’s refreshing to still see Beaton performing with such vigour and he continues to demonstrate that he’s got the ability and temperament to compete at the highest level.
Wade is renowned for being one of the most clinical combination finishers in world darts but he was simply outplayed by ‘The Bronzed Adonis’ in that particular department. The left-hander missed 23 darts at double whilst Beaton boasted an average of 92.95 and a 52% checkout success rate.
The Coventry-born star will face Darius Labanauskas for a place in the quarter-finals, after ‘Lucky D’ battled past Max Hopp 4-2. The Lithuanian dumped out ninth seed Ian White in round-two and continued his Ally Pally love affair with an impressive comeback against the German No 1.
Labanauskas has been a figure of serenity in this year’s tournament and he famously defeated Van Barneveld in last year’s competition. Despite this, Beaton is well aware that the draw presents him with a wonderful chance to reach the last eight at a World Championship for the first time since 1998.
There’s a conveyor belt of exciting talent progressing through the PDC ranks at present, with Luke Humphries, Luke Woodhouse, Nico Kurz and Fallon Sherrock all making their mark in the capital.
Nevertheless, you cannot put a price on class and experience – two attributes that Beaton possesses in abundance. In the midst of new darting stars making their mark, ‘The Bronzed Adonis’ is turning back the clock to some tune, as he eyes yet more Alexandra Palace history.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC