Gilbert reveals inspiring journey following maiden Women's Series win
An emotional Natalie Gilbert opened up on her extraordinary darting journey after celebrating her maiden PDC Womenâ€™s Series success in Wigan last weekend.
Gilbert came through an 88-player field to prevail in the final event of the 2023 season on Sunday, defeating former womenâ€™s world number one Lorraine Winstanley to triumph in Event 24.
The Warwickshire star is the tenth player to win a PDC Womenâ€™s Series title since the tourâ€™s inception in 2020, and the seventh different winner in 2023 alone.
â€œIâ€™m lost for words. Itâ€™s an amazing feeling. I canâ€™t believe it,â€_x009d_ admitted Gilbert, who won seven consecutive matches to secure the biggest payday of her career.
â€œIâ€™m proud of myself. Iâ€™ve had some battles with myself within the game for so long, so to finally perform like I can in patches throughout the day is amazing.â€_x009d_
Gilbert claimed the scalp of three-time Lakeside Champion Anastasia Dobromyslova on her way to glory at the Robin Park Tennis Centre, in a campaign which featured two whitewash wins.
She also edged out Kirsty Hutchinson in a dramatic semi-final showdown, before battling her way to a 5-3 victory against Winstanley to cap off a truly inspirational story.
â€œMy darting journey started after a stroke, after being in a wheelchair,â€_x009d_ recalled Gilbert, reflecting on her incredible rise over the last decade.
â€œI played darts to help with my balance, and never in a million years did I think that ten years down the line Iâ€™d be competing in events like these, let alone winning an event like this.
â€œThere are some elite players here, so itâ€™s nice to feel that you can compete and feel that you can be in and amongst them.
â€œItâ€™s been a massive journey and one that I hope continues.â€_x009d_
Gilbert has made consistent strides on the PDC Womenâ€™s Series circuit over recent years, enjoying a run to her maiden final in June 2022, where she was edged out by Fallon Sherrock.
She also featured in the Event 19 semi-finals last October to cement her progress at the top level, although she struggled to replicate that success during the opening stages of the 2023 season.
The 40-year-old failed to go beyond the last 16 in any of the yearâ€™s first nine events, but after overcoming more personal adversity, sheâ€™s now hitting the heights once again.
â€œMy Nan passed away [earlier this year] and it was at that point that I noticed the drop [in form],â€_x009d_ she added.
â€œAs much as I felt like I was dealing with my grief, the game was just nowhere to be honest. I felt like giving up at some points.
â€œI didnâ€™t feel comfortable for so long; my throw didnâ€™t feel right, my darts didnâ€™t feel like they belonged to me anymore. The whole game was just alien for a long while.
â€œThis is going to sound strange, but I went to my Nanâ€™s grave one day and was having a chat, and I just felt a relief.
â€œThe weight I was carrying on my shoulders just [went away], and from that day forward, I felt like me again. Itâ€™s all coming together.â€_x009d_
Following her Event 24 exploits, Gilbert has now moved into the provisional qualification places for the 2024 Betfred Womenâ€™s World Matchplay, which takes place at Blackpoolâ€™s Winter Gardens in July.
The top eight players on the 12-month Women's World Matchplay Order of Merit will qualify, and Gilbert currently occupies seventh spot, with an £800 cushion over Aileen de Graaf in ninth position.
â€œThatâ€™s beyond comprehension at the minute,â€_x009d_ continued the Tamworth thrower, who is determined to build on her landmark win ahead of the 2024 season.
â€œI just want to enjoy this win and we will see what comes. I canâ€™t ask for anything more at the minute, Iâ€™m over the moon.
â€œIâ€™m going on holiday this week, but when Iâ€™m home, Iâ€™m back on the practice board. I canâ€™t let the momentum drop, so itâ€™s full steam ahead.â€_x009d_