My best teacher

30th March 2001 at 01:00
I have always been a competitive person. At Southam middle school Mrs Adair, the PE teacher, encouraged me to take part in sport. Cricket, football, table tennis, netball, I played whatever was available. Constantly encouraging, she helped me develop the confidence necessary for what I do now. Mrs Adair believed in me. She made me promise, for example, never to give up netball, convinced I could get somewhere. Darts is a slightly different game, I know, but I'm sure one little broken promise won't matter.

The head of year, Mrs Clerk, was my support at Southam high. It took me ages to settle in and she provided an understanding ear. Towards the end, with her help, I was much happier. I played a lot of tennis, held the record for the longest throw of the rounders ball, and threw the javelin.

At an athletics competition, I was throwing the javelin for the school. Each of my throws went the furthest by two metres, but they all failed to stick in the ground and I was disqualified. They did not ask me again. I hardly suspected that day that I would soon be throwing a much smaller version for my country.

Studying carpentry and joinery at Mid-Warwickshire college was challenging. I loved the course and wanted to learn, but being the only girl in a class of 16-year-old boys proved to be a big stamina test. There was some animosity. Comments were made, I had no working partner and sometimes my assignments got ruined.

So many times I wanted to give up, but my head of department stopped me. "If you get any problems you come and see me," he used to say, and he always had time to listen. I remember him telling me, "take no notice, they're only jealous", and although I found it hard to believe at the time, maybe he was right. I stuck it out. To give up would have allowed them to win and my competitive nature insisted there was no way I was losing. I passed the course with two distinctions, a credit, and a great feeling of achievement.

I remember taking part in a charity rugby match around that time. It wa boys versus girls, but we had the advantage of not having to wear nurses' uniforms, wellies or tie our legs together, as the boys did. Comical as it sounds, it was still a competition and I had to win. I scored four tries and two conversions. We won by a long shot. Gully, my husband now, was playing and that day he understood what I was like. "Whatever the sport," he said, "you just have to win."

I started to play darts when I was 14 as the game had always been a family interest. Competing for Warwickshire youth and seniors, I travelled round the country playing in tournaments and having a laugh. The first time I played for England was my proudest moment. I felt prickles along my neck and I had a lump in my throat.

Being number one in the world is a fantastic feeling. As with the carpentry and joinery, to some extent, I am still a female working in a predominantly male field. My head of department told me never to stop fighting, and I have followed his advice to this day. Times have changed since college and more women are choosing such professions. In the world of darts, there is still a long way to go, but the first-ever women's Embassy world championship televised on BBC this year was a great step forward for us. Being the winner of this event is a personal and historical victory - and who knows what the future holds for the game.

Darts champion Trina Gulliver was talking to Paula Barnett THE STORY SO FAR

1969 Born in Southam,Warwickshire

1989 Completes carpentry and joinery apprenticeship at Mid-Warwickshire college; self-employed

1994 Marries Paul Gulliver

1997 Becomes number one female darts player in the world. Turns professional

1997 Wins Pacific masters championship and becomes British open champion (holds title for three consecutive years)

1999 Becomes Dutch open champion and world cup singles champion

2000 Wins the WDF European cup singles championships and the Winmau world masters championships

2001 Becomes Embassy women's world champion

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