Now there’s a surname to conjure with.
I was researching something else in back issues of Darts World magazine dating back to the late 1970s when I noticed a report titled ‘John’s ticket to Wembley’ concerning the USA News of the World qualifier for 1978, John Zimnawoda.
Having never heard of this obviously talented US darter, I decided to find out more about John (pictured, left) and his road to the News of the World finals.
Certainly John’s qualification for the NoW was deemed important enough to deserve a mention in 16th January 1978 issue of The New York Times. The report, simply titled Zimnawoda Wins Darts, recorded that
John Zimnawoda of Baltimore, a 33-year old carpenter who was competing in his second United States open darts championship, won the singles crown, $3,600 [approximately £2,000] in prize money and a trip to England, yesterday, at the Biltmore Hotel.
Zimnawoda, who reached the round of 32 last year before being eliminated, this time won 10 straight matches, including a 2-0 triumph over Don Kessler Jnr, of Roebling, New Jersey., in the final.
John’s visit to London would be sponsored by the United States Darting Association (USDA), the New York Times informing its readers that ‘the winner…will receive a new automobile.’ What John Zimnawoda and his US supporters would have thought about winning a British Leyland Mini 1000 (see programme cover, right) is not recorded!
Darts World also carried the story of John’s in the April 1978 issue, calling Zimnawoda a ‘relatively unknown’ and added
The event, held on the 19th floor ballroom of the Biltmore Hotel, New York, attracted 700 entries from 38 states. To win his title in the “sudden death” knockout, John won ten straight matches.
All matches were ‘best of three’ 501, bull set at 5ft 8in and an 8ft throw as per the usual News of the World rules.
The programme notes for the News of the World ‘International Championship’ held at the Empire Pool, Wembley on Saturday 29th April 1978 added little to our knowledge of the player except that he was ‘from Glen Burnie, Maryland.’
Come the competition for real, John was drawn in the first round to play the UK’s Western Counties Divisional Champion, Roger Smith (representing The Three Firms Club, Midsomer Norton, Avon), pictured below with his News of the World Divisional trophy. Darts World reported briefly on the match played in front of an 8,000 partisan crowd stating
Chosen to compete in the first match were Roger Smith…and America’s John Zimnawoda. It is a spot dreaded by even the most hardened champions, and Zimnawoda just couldn’t get into his stride, losing in two straight sets.
His prize for making the prestigious final? A ‘Valnova’ brand suitcase…
So John’s visit to London and his appearance in the News of the World final were brief but what an experience for the ‘relatively unknown’ US darter!
That’s really where my research into John Zimnawoda ends. I can find little more about this American darts ace but perhaps one or more of the US visitors to this website can help. If so, please write to me via my Contact page.
© 2020 Patrick Chaplin. Images © DW/PC Archive and News of the World. Used with permission.
John Zimnawoda was my dad . So crazy that I’m seeing this on September 13th. Today is not only my dads birthday but also the day he died. He was killed on the first day of his new job at Bethlehem steel on his birthday in 1979 when I was 13 and my brother had just turned 1 on Aug. 30th. This not only changed my life but my family’s life forever. I remember when my dad won and we went to England for the world title. He never got to defend his title because he died.
Tammy. Thank you so much for commenting about my article about your dad. I am so sorry to learn about his death all that time ago. I trust it is OK for me to keep my article and your comment on my website. Best wishes, Patrick
Yes it is completely fine. Normally on September 13th I’m always so freaked out by the day but this year when I saw your article about him and it was on that day it brought me peace. Thanks so much for giving me a wonderful memory.