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Deta Hedman determined to finally deliver women's darts world title

08 Jan 2017, 07:24

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/ ... eta-hedman


Beaten three times in the BDO final at Lakeside in the deciding set, the 57-year-old Royal Mail worker clocks up 14-hour shifts to be able to find time for darts

Deta Hedman knows better than most about the challenges of elite semi-professional sport. Hedman spent this week working her usual 14-hour shifts for Royal Mail, finishing at 4am, so that she could take time off for the BDO World Championship at Lakeside in Frimley Green. In the next week she will do a bit of daylighting as one of the world’s best darts players and an analyst for Channel 4, who are showing the tournament for the first time.

Hedman, 57, won the 100th tournament of her career in 2016, but the World Championship continues to elude her. She has lost three finals in the past five years, all in last-set deciders. “Everybody wants to win the world title,” she says. “It’s not on my CV. Been there three times, had it, and then it just popped away. What would it mean to be world champion? Ask me next Sunday. I can’t really think about it at the moment.”

For Hedman, there is not much time to think about anything. In an average week, she almost works an hour for every year of her life. “I do four days a week, 56 hours from Monday to Thursday. I finish at 4am on Friday morning, so I have the weekend to play darts. I’m probably the one who has the worst preparation for the worlds every year. It’s been so busy at work. It was a bit mad​ this week.”

It was not helped by the fact that her usual practice routine – during her lunch break at 1am – was constantly interrupted. “There were people in there who were not supposed to be in there. I asked them to leave but in the end I gave up. I had a bit of a practice over Christmas, and I’ll be doing a lot more over the next few days.”

Hedman, the No1 seed, will start against Casey Gallagher on Tuesday. The financial rewards are such that going professional has never really been an option, even for a great like Hedman; indeed she has twice taken a long sabbatical from darts to concentrate on her main job. This year, the ladies’ champion will receive £12,000, while the winner of the men’s tournament will earn £100,000.

“It’s really quite poor isn’t it? It costs us exactly the same to travel to tournaments,” she says. “I don’t expect to have the same amount of money as the men, but it should be a minimum 25 grand. Sponsorship is the key for the ladies’ game. There are so many ladies’ products out there and if you could get two or three as sponsors it would make the money up.”

There is occasional talk of a combined men’s and women’s tournament, but Hedman is unsure. “On our day we can beat a lot of the men, but the top end of the men’s game is a lot stronger. We can take a few legs, but over a few sets it’s a different matter. Their focus is a lot better than ours. We have too much going on between our ears.”

She was the first woman to beat a man in a televised competition, when she defeated Aaron Turner and Norman Fletcher at the 2005 UK Open. “It was just another game really,” she says. “I was there to beat them just as they were there to beat me.”

By far Hedman’s greatest priority is to beat a lady in the final of the World Championship. Her three defeats have all been laced with frustration. In the first, against Anastasia Dobromyslova in 2012, she misheard the referee and went for the wrong double. “Once I did that I looked at the scoreboard and I thought, ‘Oh, you do​nut.’ I just couldn’t get it out of my head for the rest of the game.”

Two years later she lost 3-2 to Lisa Ashton after being 2-0 up. “As I’m a lady of an older age, I had a massive hot flush on the stage – I get them and I don’t know when they’re going to happen. It was a really, really bad one. By the time I came back round, she had the momentum and I started trying too hard. And against Trina [Gulliver] last year, God knows. That’s all I can say. I lost focus. I’m working on it, being able to hold my focus.”

Hedman says she will not retire even if she does win the world title. One thing is for sure: even if she joins darting royalty, she’ll be straight back to work for Royal Mail. “The ladies’ final is on Saturday and I’ll be here until Sunday for the men’s final. On Monday morning I’ll wake up, get the train home and be back into work in the afternoon. The lifestyle does take its toll but I love it; that’s where my motivation comes from.”

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