Darts legend Andy Fordham has passed away aged 59, months after admitting that he was ‘terrified’ of death after being beset by health problems in recent years.
At the peak of his career, the Viking was crowned world champion in 2004 after defeating Mervyn King at the BDO World Championship.
Fordham faced health problems during his life and once weighed 31 stone, revealing that he would drink 25 bottles of lager a day.
He contracted coronavirus in January this year and revealed to The Sun that doctors warned him that the disease could hit him ‘very quickly’.
‘This is the scariest thing I’ve ever had to face in my life,’ he said.
‘My biggest fear is waking up one morning, not being able to breathe and being placed in the back of the ambulance – then not seeing my wife and children again.’
Darts icon Andy Fordham has died age 59 after being beset by health problems over the years. Pictured: with wife Jenny in October 2020 – the last known photo of him before his death
The Bristol-born darts icon (above) died on Thursday with his wife, Jenny, by his side
The Bristol-born darts icon died on Thursday with his wife, Jenny, by his side.
Following Fordham’s world championship triumph, he faced off against Phil Taylor in a box office clash titled The Showdown.
The 59-year-old was taken unwell during the match and defaulted at 5-2 with health concerns raised after it came to light that he would drink heavily before taking to the oche.
Fordham’s final professional appearance came in 2018 at the World Masters. He was hospitalised in March 2020 with a bowel problem, leading to him having 16 litres of fluid drained from his body.
His legendary feats of drinking were synonymous with his career as a fan-favourite, although he would later warn of the devastating impact alcohol had on his health.
Fordham once drank 62 bottles of Pils after celebrating he and his wife Jenny’s first wedding anniversary in 2001.
While appearing on Celebrity Fit Club in 2004, Fordham revealed he gave up drinking beer and replaced instead drank six bottles of wine a day while on a five-day stag do in Tenerife.
Despite this, he would go on to win the programme’s biggest loser challenge, losing more than three stone.
As a teenage boy growing up in Charlton, south east London, he was nicknamed ‘The Whippet’ for his slender frame, weighing only 13st in his mid-20s.
Fordham’s final professional appearance came in 2018 at the World Masters. He was hospitalised in March 2020 with a bowel problem, leading to him having 16 litres of fluid drained from his body
Where most athletes develop a taste for women or fast cars, ‘The Viking’ was seduced by food and booze – ballooning to 31st at one point in his life
His legendary feats of drinking were synonymous with his career as a fan-favourite, although he would later warn of the devastating impact alcohol had on his health
He was a keen track-and-field athlete and footballer, but in 1995 turned to darts and started running his own pub – where his weight started to slowly increase.
He told MailOnline of his weight reaching 31st: ‘I never ate a lot, but I ate badly, grabbing convenience foods – takeaways, pizzas, kebabs – because I was always so busy.
‘If I was working behind the bar, I’d snack on peanuts or crisps, and I never exercised. And then there was the drinking.
‘Looking back, I realise I was an alcoholic. I couldn’t stop myself. I thought I was in control but I wasn’t.
‘I would start drinking as soon as I went downstairs to open up the bar, at around 11am.
‘On an average day, I’d have up to 25 bottles of lager and half a bottle of spirits – vodka, brandy or whisky.
‘Before darts matches I’d drink to calm my nerves. People assume alcoholics slur and fall all over the place, but I never drank to get drunk.’
Where most athletes develop a taste for women or fast cars, ‘The Viking’ was seduced by food and booze.
Instead of a shower or motivational music before taking to the oche, Fordham confessed to a much more basic preparation – he told the Telegraph in 2005: ‘Before a match I like to relax with 25 bottles of Holsten Pils and six steak n’ kidney pies.’
But the diet was part of the problem, it was integral to his success. In the same interview he said: ‘I remember my first ever world champs, I was incredibly nervous.
‘I was really scared. So before my first game I drunk shed loads and the worst thing that could’ve happened, happened: it worked.
‘And from then on, I felt I had to do it again. It helped the concentration, numbed everything, you weren’t aware of what was going on behind you, you could just concentrate on what was in front of you, the board.’
At the peak of his career, the Viking was crowned world champion in 2004 after defeating Mervyn King at the BDO World Championship
But throughout his illustrious career, Fordham faced numerous health scares. Pictured: His wife, Jenny, shares a picture of ‘The Viking’ as he recovers in hospital in February 2020
Throughout his illustrious career, he faced numerous health scares.
In 2005 when he played Phil Taylor in a PDC v WDC event entitled ‘the Showdown’, ‘The Viking collapsed at the oche.
A year later he was due to play at the Lakeside, but pulled out after experiencing breathing difficulties backstage.
This second health scare prompted him to shed weight, losing 14st with the help of partner Jenny and their two children Raymond and Emily, before returning to darts in 2007.
But in January that year, ‘The Viking’ collapsed while preparing for the British Dart Organisation World Championship’s opening match.
He was rushed to hospital after suffering with severe chest pains and breathing issues, and had a minor stroke.
Andy was diagnosed with cirrhosis – more than 70 per cent of his liver has been destroyed – and was told that unless he stopped drinking, he’d have only a few years to live.
Fordham revealed at the time that he aimed to be back playing darts within ‘six weeks’.
After being told he might need life-saving bowel surgery last March, Fordham told the Sun he would ‘keep fighting until I can’t fight anymore’.
He added: ‘There have been a few things gone wrong and it’s all down to alcohol.
‘If you drink too much, have a look at my story – you see it isn’t worth it. I’m not proud of it.
‘It doesn’t just ruin your life, it can also ruin many other people’s lives too.’
Tributes have poured in for the fan-favourite from across the world of darts this evening
Tributes have poured in for the fan-favourite from across the world of darts.
Former world champion Adrian Lewis said: ‘Sad to hear the passing of a legend Andy Fordham our thoughts are with his family.’
‘Such sad news that Andy Fordham has died. A true legend and gentleman of the sport. My thoughts are with his family and friends,’ Rob Cross posted on Twitter.
Former pro Kevin Painter said: ‘Absolutely devastated to hear the news that Andy Fordham has passed away, a darting legend and one of the nicest guys on the planet, thoughts are with the family at this time… RIP Andy.’
Darts presenter Dave Clarke tweeted: ‘Such sad news, a really lovely fella.’