Former darts world champion Andy Fordham has died at the age of 59.
Fordham, known affectionately as “The Viking”, won the 2004 BDO World Darts Championship and the 1999 Winmau World Masters.
The British Darts Organisation (BDO) said in a statement: “(We) 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.”
Bristol-born Fordham, one of the most popular figures in the sport, has passed away after suffering health problems in recent months.
He required a life-saving bowel operation in 2020 and was diagnosed with coronavirus at the start of this year.
Instantly recognisable for his huge frame, at one point weighing 31 stone, Fordham made headlines in 2004 with a thrilling 6-3 win over Mervyn King in the BDO World Championship final at Lakeside.
Fordham, who was drunk during the landmark victory and had a reputation for heavy drinking, later said becoming world champion was the worst thing that could have happened to him.
He told a newspaper in 2009: “I wasn’t used to the limelight. I was so shocked, I’d drink to cover it. You’d get invited here, there and everywhere and everything’s free. Drink is everywhere.
“I just enjoyed drinking. In the end I p***** away everything I earned.”
After a health scare in 2007 where doctors told him his liver was 75% dead, Fordham enrolled on reality TV show Celebrity Fit Club.
He joined the Professional Darts Corporation two years later.
Sad to hear the passing of a legend Andy Fordham our thoughts are with his family
— Adrian Lewis (@jackpot180) July 15, 2021
Fordham 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.
Former darts player and ex-BBC pundit Bobby George wrote on Twitter this evening: “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.”
Former world darts champion Adrian Lewis wrote: “Sad to hear the passing of a legend Andy Fordham.
“Our thoughts are with his family.”
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
— James Wade (@JamesWade180) July 15, 2021
Darts player James Wade also paid tribute, writing on Twitter: “God bless my friend Andy Fordham. What a pleasure it was been your friend and spending time with you. Thoughts are with his family.”
Fordham, who grew up in south east London, grew up as an active child and had a keen interest in football and athletics.
He was nicknamed “The Whippet” at school because of his speed.
He is survived by his wife Jenny and their children Ray and Emily.