Leighton Bennett has opened up on the social media abuse he has been subjected to during his first season on the BDO circuit.
Bennett, 14, was beaten in the opening round of the 2020 BDO World Championship by former champion Scott Mitchell.
He then went on to lose 3-0 to Ireland’s Keane Barry in the BDO World Youth final, but admits abuse on social media has affected his game.
Bennett became the youngest player ever to qualify for a World Darts Championship and has shot to prominence over the past 12 months.
Teenage sensation Leighton Bennett aims to mark a dream BDO World Championship debut with a shock scalp of 2015 Lakeside Champion Scott Mitchell at Indigo at The O2 on Tuesday.
At just 14, Bennett will make history by becoming the youngest player ever to feature in a senior World Darts Championship and has been handed a First Round glamour tie with one of the BDO’s most established stars.
Bennett made headlines in August 2018 by winning the Cambridgeshire Open aged 12 and backed that up by winning the BDO World Youth title at Lakeside the following January.
After a first full season on the senior circuit, ‘Boom Boom’ qualified for the BDO’s show-piece by finishing 18th in the ranking list, having reached the final of the Luxembourg Open as well as the Semi-Finals of the Welsh Open, French Open, German Open, Antwerp Open and Polish Open.
He will also feature in a second successive World Youth Final at the weekend, but for the time being will be fully focused on the task in hand against the number nine seed.
Bennett has already claimed the scalp of 16-time World Champion Phil Taylor in a high-profile exhibition match, and Mitchell will be all too wary of the threat posed by the fearless young talent.
Mitchell claimed the crown at Lakeside five years ago but has failed to progress beyond the Quarter-Finals since, with his sole success in 2019 coming at the England Masters.
The evening session also sees Lisa Ashton begin her pursuit of a fifth Women’s world title since 2014 when she takes on Paula Jacklin in Round One.
Ashton, the back-to-back World Masters champion who last secured Lakeside glory in 2018, aims to press on from her impressive debut in last November’s Grand Slam of Darts and take inspiration from Fallon Sherrock’s historic run in the recent PDC World Championship.
Sherrock’s withdrawal from the tournament means Ashton is now favourite to reign supreme once again, but she will be determined to stave off a potential banana skin at the hands of 62-year-old Jacklin – who has fallen at the first hurdle in this event in all four previous appearances.
The afternoon session plays host to a clash between three-time Women’s World Champion Anastasia Dobromyslova and two-time semi-finalist Sharon Prins of the Netherlands.
The stand-out men’s tie of the afternoon sees number three seed Richard Veenstra, a three-time ranking event winner in 2019, take on debutant qualifier Justin Hood – who defeated Romanian newcomer Gabriel Pascaru 3-1 in the Preliminary Round.
Welsh ace Nick Kenny, the number six seed, starts his third quest for a first win in the BDO World Championship with a tie against Dutch debutant Dennie Olde Kalter.
Two former PDC Challenge Tour event winners collide as number 14 seed David Evans takes on three-time winner Nick Fullwell – who averaged 90.5 in seeing off Canada’s David Cameron 3-1 in Monday’s Preliminary Round.
Tyneside’s Gary Robson, three times a Lakeside quarter-finalist, starts out his maiden Indigo campaign with a show-down against play-off qualifier Ben Hazel – who edged out America’s Joe Chaney in a fifth set decider in the Preliminary Round.
French thrower Thibault Tricole aims to follow up his Prelim scalp of Ross Montgomery when he comes up against Scotland’s Ryan Hogarth, the number 15 seed making his second appearance in this competition.
The action gets underway from 1pm GMT, with Men’s matches to be contested over the best of five sets, best of five legs per set and Ladies matches best of three sets.
A tie-break will be in operation in Men’s matches, where the final set must be won by two clear legs. If the score reaches 5-5, the 11th leg will be sudden-death.
Tuesday January 7
Afternoon session (1pm-5pm)
David Evans v Nick Fullwell (RD1)
Nick Kenny v Dennie Olde Kalter (RD1)
Anastasia Dobromyslova v Sharon Prins (RD1 Women)
Richard Veenstra v Justin Hood (RD1)
Evening session (7pm-11pm)
Gary Robson v Ben Hazel (RD1)
Lisa Ashton v Paula Jacklin (RD1 Women)
Scott Mitchell v Leighton Bennett (RD1)
Ryan Hogarth v Thibault Tricole (RD1)