A 61-year journey from a house in Castleton, Jamaica to the Alexandra Palace, London. Deta Hedman’s story is one from hardship to hero.
This remarkable woman makes the Cinderella fairytale look like she bought a dress from Primark and went to McDonalds for a Happy Meal. And there’s no glass slipper, just another glass ceiling being smashed above the oche.
This, of all years, sees Hedman become the first black woman to play in the PDC World Championship. It seems so appropriate after a ground-breaking year of awareness for Black Lives Matter. The horrific death of George Floyd in America, the protests, sportsmen and women taking the knee and Lewis Hamilton becoming the greatest Formula One driver of all-time. Now it’s Hedman’s turn to make history. Yet it began as a member of the Windrush generation, so controversially treated by the UK Government over the past few months.
When Hedman was two years old, her father left Jamaica and her mother followed shortly after. She did not see them again until she was 13. Like many other members of the Windrush generation, Hedman’s parents travelled to England in search of work and a better life for their children. Hedman was left in a house made of wood with a zinc roof and a veranda. In the evenings, a paraffin lamp and candles were the only source of light. With no running water or electricity in Castleton, Hedman would walk a mile with a bucket, back and forth until she had enough water for the whole family to drink. Yet this incredible, humble woman doesn’t like to dwell on her difficult past. She told me:
“I am definitely a fighter because of my upbringing. As a kid you don’t think of those things at all. My life wasn’t extremely good but it wasn’t bad either. You just do what you have to do to survive. “That’s really what I do probably now. You try to survive and not take life too seriously.
My attitude to life has shaped the person I am. “I remember how hard it was as a kid. Of course I do. But there’s still people worse off than me. You don’t dwell on things like that, I think I’m extremely lucky because my parents decided to come away from Jamaica to make a better life for us. “I wouldn’t be here if not for that so I am luckier than most. There’s still a lot of countries where it’s even harder than where I was in Jamaica. “It was just how life was at the time. My family saw an opportunity and they were fortunate to be able to get here.
“It’s hard to hear about the issues around the Windrush generation. Especially because we were invited at the time. I’m fortunate because after I was old enough I got a British passport. “My dad is no longer with us, he passed away 15 years ago and my mum is in her 80s. “My mum is like me, she doesn’t worry about anything. She is very proud of me now. She worked for the NHS for a long, long time. “She has been diabetic for 40 years so it takes its toll and she is shielding right now because of Covid-19.”
There’s certainly some fight and sporting gene in the Hedman family. Hedman’s brother Rudi was a professional footballer playing for Colchester United and Crystal Palace. Her other brother, Al, was a professional darts player and former 1995 BDO British Open Champion and nephew Graham is a 400-metre runner. Yet her mum won’t be able to watch her daughter’s groundbreaking Worlds appearance, because she doesn’t have Sky! Hedman added:
“I don’t think my mum will watch me in the World Championship because she hasn’t got Sky! “The rest of the family will be watching and they will tell her all about it anyway. “They are behind me 100 per cent shouting me on as they always do and their neighbours will get annoyed and ask them to keep the noise down. “I don’t know where the sporting gene comes from. I think it’s just get up and go to be honest. If we think we are good at something, we will pursue it. I think it’s just bred in us, I don’t know.”
Hedman admits that her Worlds qualification and appearance will be a highlight of a fascinating journey from rags to riches. This remarkable woman has racked up 215 titles on the oche, second only to the great Phil Taylor, and made a record-breaking 341 finals. She added:
“I don’t think about the journey I’ve had to be honest. I let everyone else talk about the statistics. My other half tells me about it and I just say ‘ahh OK’! I just don’t get myself bogged down with anything.
“The moment that the PDC said they would have two ladies in the World Championship about 10 years ago, Stacy and Trisha got through, I did think I had a chance then. Then when Lisa and Anna were in it, I also felt I had a chance.
“But I turned 60 and the way Lisa and Fallon have been playing, I just felt I’d go to the Women’s Series and see if I could pick up some sheckles. Not in a million years did I think I’d qualify.
“It’s been an amazing 2020. So much has happened. Lewis Hamilton has become the greatest Formula One driver and all sorts. It’s strange that I’ve qualified for the World Championship in times like this. “I’ve haven’t done that in years before when I believed I was at the top of my game. “Lisa has been there before and has got a tour card. I just get up there as the oldest woman and do what I can. I’m enjoying being 60-odd and the youngsters still can’t beat me! “I will just keep going”.
I’m also an ambassador for the youth so when I cannot physically play myself I’ll still be there in trying to bring new talent through. “I also still play for England, which I’m very proud of. The England ladies have held all the titles over the past few years”.
“But I’ve still got the highlight of my career to come, playing in the PDC World Championship. That’s because I never thought ladies would have the opportunity to do that. “Whether I play good or bad, nobody can take that away from me. I’ve done it. “I think it’s a tall order to go and match Hamilton’s seven world titles now though!”
A remarkable woman. And so deservedly, this darting Cinderella will go to the bullseye.
This article originally appeared in Darts World magazine (Issue 572).
Words: Phil Lanning, Featured image: L Lustig/PDC
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