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Former world champion Andy Fordham has died at the age of 59, the British Darts Organisation has announced.
A statement posted by the BDO on its Facebook page on Thursday confirmed the news regarding ‘The Viking’, who was one of the most popular players in the sport.
It read: “The British Darts Organisation are deeply saddened to hear of the loss of the darts legend Andy (The Viking) Fordham, a true gentleman of the game who will deeply missed by all.
“Our hearts and thoughts are with his family at this time.”
Fordham, who required a life-saving bowel operation in 2020 and was diagnosed with coronavirus at the start of this year, made headlines in 2004 with a thrilling 6-3 win over Mervyn King in the BDO World Championship final at Lakeside.
After a health scare, where doctors told Fordham his liver was 75 per cent dead, he enrolled on reality TV show Celebrity Fit Club and joined the Professional Darts Corporation in 2009.
The Bristol-born player would later return to the BDO and qualified for the Grand Slam of Darts in 2015 where he claimed a first televised win in 10 years over Wayne Jones.
Adrian Lewis had also faced Fordham in that event and paid tribute to him on Twitter, saying: “Sad to hear the passing of a legend Andy Fordham. Our thoughts are with his family.”
Former darts player and ex-BBC pundit Bobby George added: “Just heard the devastating news that Andy Fordham has passed away.
“He was a gentle giant and loved by all. Our condolences go out to his wife Jenny, family and friends. RIP Andy Fordham, The Viking.”
Fordham’s triumph at the 2004 BDO World Championships occurred after four previous defeats in the semi-final stage.
Steve Beaton had handed his “great friend” one of those losses in 1996 in the first of six meetings between the duo.
“So very saddened to hear of the passing away of Andy Fordham,” former world number one Beaton said on Twitter.
“Not only a great friend but a sporting legend who I had the pleasure of knowing for many a year. Our thoughts are with Jenny and the family. RIP my friend.”
Following Fordham’s 2004 win, he took on PDC World Champion Phil Taylor later that year in a clash dubbed ‘The Showdown’ at the Circus Tavern but breathing difficulties forced him to retire trailing 5-2 in the best-of-13 contest.
PDC chairman Barry Hearn said: “Andy was one of the most recognisable players worldwide throughout his career and extremely popular around the world.
“His 2004 win at Lakeside will always be remembered as the greatest moment of Andy’s career and we also knew how much it meant to him when he qualified for the Grand Slam a decade later.
“He was a great personality and a lovely man, and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”
James Wade, who started out in the BDO before he switched to the PDC where he has since won 10 titles, tweeted: “God bless my friend Andy Fordham.
“What a pleasure it was been your friend and spending time with you. Thoughts are with his family. Cheers Hamlet.”