Justin Pipe achieves World Championship redemption after 'two years of torture'December 19, 2019
Justin Pipe says ‘two years of mental torture’ is now in the past after returning to winning ways at the PDC World Darts Championship.
The world number 56 was embroiled in a firestorm two years ago at the Alexandra Palace over what became known as ‘Coughgate’.
During a first round clash with Bernie Smith, Pipe was accused of coughing to put his opponent off, which Sky Sports pundit Wayne Mardle described as ‘despicable’.
The Force was fined £3,000 by the Darts Regulation Authority for the incident, but maintains he did nothing wrong, with neither his opponent nor the match referee complaining, or even saying they heard anything – the ‘evidence’ was only seen on screen.
Then the number 27 seed, Pipe’s game has struggled since, battling boos from crowds and subsequent poor form for the best part of two years, failing to qualify for the World Championship last time around.
Pipe is back this year and back to winning ways, beating Slovenian qualifier Benjamin Pratnemer 3-2 in round one, and he believes an albatross has been removed from around his neck.
‘Nothing makes up for the two years I’ve had to go through, but winning today is sweet,’ said the 48-year-old.
‘It’s proved to me I can dig deep, walk down through that walk-on with my head held high and put on a battle, which is what I’ve done.
‘The crowd allowed me to put on a battle, which they didn’t two years ago, it wasn’t even worth turning up.’
The controversy of two years ago only emerged after beating Smith, and Pipe was treated to some serious abuse from the Alexandra Palace crowd for his next contest against Phil Taylor, which he lost 4-0.
This led to his downward spiral which left him questioning how people in the sport perceived him.
‘100% [it was the darkest two years of my life]. Everybody knows me in darts and there’s not one dart player that would say I would do what I was supposed to have done.
‘It’s been two years of mental torture for me, really. You’re thinking “do my peers think I’ve done this? Do they actually think I’ve done that?’ That’s very hard to take.
‘You don’t see a cough you hear it and there was never any sound produced. Even Bernie Smith said “cut the guy some slack.”
‘What a lovely guy, it would have been easy for him to say “I lost because he done this” but he didn’t.
‘I was hammered. I’ve taken my punishment, kept my mouth shut and got on with it, it’s been two years of real hard slog.
‘But we’ve got there now, that’s in the past and I need to move on and push on and the crowd has allowed me to do that.
‘It’s not so much the support they give you it’s the belief that they have. Everything was very one-sided two years ago and I wasn’t allowed to put my point across, rightly or wrongly, I wasn’t allowed.
‘When you’re fed one version of a story, they’re just going to believe that. That was hard, very hard to turn up and play.
‘I knew I was going to get crucified up there [against Taylor] and I walked up there and took it. It’s not the crowd’s fault, they’re going to listen and believe what they’re told, but today to have them on my side meant so much to me, it was fantastic.
‘It’s put those demons to bed from two years ago so it’s going to allow me to move on.’
Pipe has had to take the punishment on the chin and has moved on, but still lays the blame for the controversy at the feet of Mardle, who he believes caused the furore with his comments on Sky Sports.
Mardle also labelled Pipe’s ‘coughing’ as ‘childish’ and ‘desperate’ and the Somerset man has not put Hawaii 501 back on his Christmas card list since.
‘No, I’ve not been in the same room as the said person and I don’t really want to be,’ said Pipe.
‘It’s all positives, no negatives for me whilst I’m playing. I’ll have my day. Every dog has his day and I can sit back and wait, I’m happy to sit back.
‘I’m just happy to go up and play darts in front of a fantastic crowd and win and be back Saturday.’
Pipe will indeed be back on Saturday against number six seed Daryl Gurney for a place in the last 32.
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