FORMER Olympic javelin star Steve Backley grabbed glory in the PartyPoker.com Pro-Celebrity Challenge by partnering James Wade to glory at the Wolverhampton Civic.

Backley, a three-time Olympic medallist, swapped his javelin for a set of darts in the ITV4-televised tournament, featuring eight celebrities paired with darts stars.

Having defeated the pairings of Peter Manley and poker ace David “Devilfish” Ulliott in the quarter-finals and Raymond van Barneveld and Phil Tufnell in the semis, Backley landed the winning dart to defeat Phil Taylor and Neil Ruddock and claim glory.

“I took a step back during the final and looked around because I was in awe of playing with Phil Taylor and James Wade” said Backley.

“I didn’t think it could get any better, and then I hit the winning double!

“It was a fantastic experience, Phil Tufnell has been a big hero of mine for many years, and Neil Ruddock’s a legend so it was great to play with them.

“I felt I got better as the tournament went on, and that showed in the final.”

Backley added: “I think darts should be included in the Olympics. It’s not too late to get it in there for 2012 in London and I’d love to see that!”

Wade, the PDC world number three, added: “I was certainly drawn with the right partner. Steve was pretty good and it was good for him to get the winning double.”

Wade and Backley each took home £8,000 as winners of the Pro-Celebrity Challenge, with Taylor and former England footballer Ruddock winning £6,000 each.

Ruddock had hit a winning double top in their quarter-final win over six-time World Snooker champion Steve Davis and Anastasia Dobromyslova, the Women’s World Champion.

They then defeated the pairing of Wayne Mardle and actor Michael Le Vell in the semis, coming from 1-0 down to win 3-1, thanks in part to a 156 finish from Taylor.

Taylor also hit a 145 finish in the final to level at two-all, before Backley applied the finishing touch.

Mardle and Le Vell opened the tournament with a 3-0 whitewash of PDC World Champion John Part and former boxer Barry McGuigan.

England rugby star Mike Tindall and BDO World Champion Mark Webster were the other first round losers, going down in a deciding leg to van Barneveld and Tufnell.

The Pro-Celebrity Challenge preceded the start of the PartyPoker.com Grand Slam of Darts, which features 32 stars of the sport battling for £356,000 in prize money over the next nine days in Wolverhampton.

PartyPoker.com Pro-Celebrity Darts Order of Play
Quarter-Finals
Wayne Mardle & Michael Le Vell 3-0 John Part & Barry McGuigan
Phil Taylor & Neil Ruddock 3-1 Anastasia Dobromyslova & Steve Davis
James Wade & Steve Backley 3-1 Peter Manley & David Ulliott
Raymond van Barneveld & Phil Tufnell 3-2 Mark Webster & Mike Tindall

Semi-Finals
Phil Taylor & Neil Ruddock 3-1 Wayne Mardle & Michael Le Vell
James Wade & Steve Backley 3-0 Raymond van Barneveld & Phil Tufnell

Final
James Wade & Steve Backley 3-2 Phil Taylor & Neil Ruddock
All games the best of five legs of 501, with the celebrity throwing first.

Quarter-Finals
Wayne Mardle & Michael Le Vell 3-0 John Part & Barry McGuigan
Wayne Mardle led the way in the opening game of the PartyPoker.com Pro-Celebrity Challenge by leading Michael Le Vell to a 3-0 win over John Part & Barry McGuigan.

Mardle took the game’s first leg on double nine, and hit the bull for a 73 finish in the second, before bringing the Wolves Civic crowd to its feet with a 19- in leg three.

Le Vell missed double top to seal the win, but McGuigan and Part were unable to stay in the contest as Mardle took double eight for the win.

Phil Taylor & Neil Ruddock 3-1 Anastasia Dobromyslova & Steve Davis
Neil Ruddock helped 13-time World Champion Phil Taylor into the semi-finals of the PartyPoker.com Pro-Celebrity Challenge.

Former footballer Ruddock showed his prowess on the dartboard – honed in practice with top pro Adrian Gray in Hastings over the past week – by hitting double top at the first time of asking to win the opening leg of his game against Davis & Dobromyslova.

The Russian lady star won leg two on double seven, while Davis hit a 140 score in the third before Taylor hit double top to put him and Ruddock 2-1 up.

Taylor then denied six-time World Snooker champion Davis and the female star with double two to put his heavyweight pairing into the last four.

“It was great fun but it doesn’t feel like your own arm up there on stage!” said Davis. “I hit the 140 and that’s the one moment I felt totally in control, but nothing I did mattered after Neil hit the double top, what a tremendous shot!”

James Wade & Steve Backley 3-1 Peter Manley & David Ulliott
James Wade and Steve Backley arrowed into the semi-finals of the PartyPoker.com Pro-Celebrity Challenge with a comeback win over Peter Manley and David “Devilfish” Ulliott.

Poker star Devilfish made a confident start to help his team to the first leg, which Manley won with a 105 checkout.

Wade hit a 180 in the second, with double top from the world number three seeing his side draw level, before both Backley and Devilfish missed doubles in the next, which Wade won on double two.

Devilfish also had a chance in the next, hitting treble 17 when on 71 but missing two darts at double ten, as well as matching Manley in bursting his score on five.

Backley missed two darts at double ten himself, but Wade secured the win.

“I grew into it and got more comfortable as the game wore on and am looking forward to the semi-finals now,” said Backley.

Devilfish added: “It was disappointing to lose and I’m kicking myself for not keeping us in the match – the 51 was lovely but I couldn’t hit double ten!”

Raymond van Barneveld & Phil Tufnell 3-2 Mark Webster & Mike Tindall
Former England cricketer Phil Tufnell helped bowl himself and Raymond van Barneveld into the semi-finals of the PartyPoker.com Pro-Celebrity Challenge in a final-leg shoot-out.

England World Cup-winning rugby star Tindall helped partner Mark Webster – the BDO World Champion – to win the first leg, before the chalk-and-cheese partnership of Tufnell and van Barneveld came back strongly,

Van Barneveld landed a 180 and double four as they won the second leg, and Tufnell scored 160 in setting up a 100 checkout from the Dutchman as they led 2-1.

The fourth leg ended akin to a pub league match, with both teams left on double one after missing a host of doubles before Webster finally hit the finish.

Van Barneveld hit another maximum in the fifth and deciding leg, before double four sealed a place in the last four – leaving Tufnell celebrating in a similar manner to his bouncing walk-on to House of Pain’s “Jump Around”.

“I thought the walk-on may be my only one so I enjoyed it – and I get to do it again now!” said Tufnell.

“The 160 score on its own meant I can go home a happy man but it’s great fun – what a buzz!”

Tindall – who will report back for training with Gloucester RU on Saturday – admitted: “That was tremendous fun but it’s a shame to come so close and lose.

“Even when I calmed down after my walk-on, my hand was still shaking and it shows how good these professionals are. You have to give them credit for going up there and playing so well in front of such a great crowd.”

Semi-Finals
Phil Taylor & Neil Ruddock 3-1 Wayne Mardle & Michael Le Vell
Phil Taylor and Neil Ruddock came from behind to book their place in the PartyPoker.com Pro-Celebrity Challenge Final.

The lively pairing of Wayne Mardle and Michael Le Vell made an ideal start to the semi-final, with double top giving them the lead.

Taylor, stung perhaps by losing a leg, hit back with a two-dart 77 finish and fired his side into the lead with the night’s biggest finish of 156.

He then hit a 180 to leave Ruddock on a 117 finish in leg four – with the former footballer hitting 19 and treble 20 before missing the double 19.

But Taylor ensured a place in the final with a double 16 finish to end the Coronation Street star’s hopes.

“I didn’t go for us in that game,” said Le Vell. “I’d hit something like 47 and Wayne would hit 53 – and he’s the pro!

“But it was a great experience to play with these guys on stage.”

James Wade & Steve Backley 3-0 Raymond van Barneveld & Phil Tufnell
Phil Tufnell’s PartyPoker.com Pro-Celebrity Challenge dream was shattered by James Wade & Steve Backley with a 3-0 semi-final loss.

Ex-England cricketer Tufnell had helped put himself and Raymond van Barneveld into the last four, but having hit a 160 score in the win over Mark Webster & Mike Tindall failed to reproduce that scoring.

Wade powered home double eight and double four to help himself and three-time Olympic medallist Backley into a 2-0 lead.

The former javelin star almost claimed glory when he missed two darts at double seven for the game, but Wade showed him the way to land in the same bed and set up a final against Phil Taylor & Neil Ruddock.

“I had a great time but I didn’t want to let Raymond down,” said Tufnell. “I’ve got my walk-on sorted and just need to practice my darts now!”

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