Interview with Deta Hedman

Deta Hedman was born 1959 in Jamaica and together with the family moved to England when she was 13 years old. From 1990 to 1997 she played in the BDO than work commitment made it necessary for her to take a break from darts. From 1994 till the break she was the number 1 woman fo the world. 2002 she started to play on the PDC Circuit only to have to take another break due to work commitment in 2006. She returned 2009 to the BDO and immediately started to win tournament after tournament again and to return to the top ranking place in the BDO and the WDF ranking. Before Deta's first break the BDO Women Wold Championship didn't exist but after her return in 2009 she managed to qualify and qualified in 2010 and 2011 again. Till now she couldn't win the title but that seems only to be a matter of time.

One can read at your homepage that you want to prove it's possible to play great darts when your are fifty and over and no one can't deny you really prove it. But when did you start to play darts and how did it happen?

I started when I was about 16/17. We used to go to the pub on a Sunday lunchtime (typically British) and would chalk and play until I could win a leg. I was fortunate as my brothers were of a very good standard. Al was actually British Open champion in 1995 - a great talent who plays superleague still but not competitions.

Where there many female darters around already at that time?

At the time I was one of the few ladies in the pub who played. But as I progressed throughout pub leagues and super leagues there were more and more. At county standard my eyes were opened to how good some ladies were.

Were you a good darter from the beginning or how long did it take you?

It took me about five years. Then I felt I was good enough to be competitive with everyone.

I read somewhere that Maureen Flowers at the beginning had a problem finding real competion in playing other female darters - was it the same for you in the beginning?

I had a great friendship with Mandy Solomans - an absolutely amazing natural talent. Mandy was one of the first ladies to throw a nine-darter in superleague. There were a fes of us who travelled: Many, Sharon Colclough and young lady called Catrina Jones (Trina Gulliver).

And has it changed?

There is a great deal of strength now. Anastasia, Trina, Lorraine, Julie, Tamara, Irina and countless others including a rich vein of youngsters: Zoe Jones, Fallon Sherrock, Casey Gallagher, Sarah Rosen, some very good Russians and Germans as well. Tricia Wright has come back on the tour after shoulder surgery and is beginning to play awesome. The ladies game is very strong at the moment but the ruling bodies don't seem to be able to market them in a progressive way.

How popular was darts under young females when you started and how popular is it today?

When I started it was mostly older ladies but with sky's coverage it's become popular for the younger girls and that can only be good for the game. It's a bit secret at the moment but I am getting involved in a project that will be aimed to encourage youngsters to take up darts especially amongst the ethnic communities. This project will be launched soon.

Do you feel recognition for female darters has changed at all over the years?

It's slightly better now but I feel we are still treated as second class citizens. I thought the ladies PDC World Championship was a hastily thrown together event. The top ladies sent a format that we thought would attract a class entry into the event. However the PDC totally ignored our ideas(their right as promoters) and a lot of the girls didn't enter and adopted a wait and see attitude. I fervently believe that if the event was repeated the turnout would have been very good. Remember players like myself, Tricia Wright and the other BDO ladies put themselves on the line for this event and despite promises from the PDC the event was dropped seven months after the event for poor entries.

And would you say it's only the audience and the fans who don't take female darters serious or are it your male colleagues too?

Men are beginning to realise that we are serious. At a recent event I beat Scottish international Ewan Hislop and English international Scott Mitchell. Earlier this year I beat Brendan Dolan (PDC) 4:1 and famously I am probably the only player in the world that has a 100 percent winning record against Phil Taylor, lol. I beat him in a players championship when in PDC 5:0 and took out a thirteen darter at a Riley's Exbo in Oxford...(forgot to add the 5/0 was because he was scratched lol).

You were the first woman who joined the PDC Circuit for a while - what kind of experience was it?

I was there with another lady -Jane Dempster. I only really played as I would drive my ex Colin Lloyd to the events and thought I might as well have a go. I loved it. I had some good wins - especially pleasing to beat Wes Newton on his own patch. I've never been scared to playing the guys. I can remember Harlow Open years ago I was about to play Kevin Painter in the semi-final. I overheard him saying to his friend John McFall that when he beat me to get in the final they would split the money.Fired me up loads and I not only beat Kevin in the semifinal but John in the final too...

And from your experience there do you think it's an option at all to play with men in a joint circuit?

I tried it once and wouldn't rule it out again either in the BDO or the PDC.

Do you like it to compete with the men?

Yes, especially when I beat them.

When you look for example at the UK Open qualifiers there are more or less no women who "dare" to try their luck. Would you think women are really not good enough to come through? Or what do you think is the reason for this?

With the BDO tour and the WDF events there always seem to be clashes. Getting to Lakeside has to come first and I feel it's very important for leading players to support our tour. I can safely say I attend as many or more events than many of the men and women players. If we don't support the events we will lose them.

You often can find discussions about women playing in men's leagues especially when the women start to beat the men. Do you feel men have a problem to be beaten by a woman and why?

I feel most men feel under pressure from playing any lady whether good or bad.

From all your long experience do you believe women could keep up with the men in darts?

There is no logical reason why ... well maybe they should try and play with the dreaded "hot-flushes

Have you got an idea how to sell ladies darts better???

I would love to see an annual men v women event in the style of golf's Ryder Cup or - to build bridges between BDO and PDC - a mixed pair's event.

Should you read Dartoids column - he just published a new column giving his opinion that sex appeal could help to sell ladies darts better. Would you agree with that?

Do you watch darts because Phil Taylor is a good looking man? Some of the comments made when Stacey and Tricia got to the PDC final were a disgrace. They were there because they beat the likes of Ana and Steffi Luck.

Is it more a positive or a negative factor and how difficult is it for other female darters that for example Anastasia Dobromyslova just would sell better than others?

The best salesperson would be Dana, Kim Huybrechts partner who happens to be a very good darter. For sure the young good looking ladies will attract sponsorship but sport should never be judged on anything apart from ability.

Is it for a female darter easier when she looks good?

Looks will it make easier to get a fair weather sponsor but I would hope a sponsor would judge the ladies on what they achieve on the board.

What else would you do to promote women darts and do you think there'll once be a way out of the shadowy existence?

As I stated earlier have more events where we play the men. When I play mixed pairs I tray to outscore the man rather than the woman. The EDO in England have started streaming events and gave given the ladies good coverage. We are holding a very well funded ladies classic in Lincoln on September 15th. This is a stand alone ladies event held by an organisation born out of Lakeside this year when the early rounds of the ladies event got terrible coverage. An online petition was launched and the support it received got the TV boys to change their minds. This organisation - "The Ladies Darts Organisation" was launched and I feel it is a very positive step for us ladies.

Where you ever able to earn your living with playing darts?


How do you manage to combine work and playing darts?

My work hours are Monday 18.000 - 04.00, Tuesday and Wednesday 14.00 - 04.00 and Thursday 18.00 - 04.00. This gives me every Friday off to travel to events.

And do you in anyway feel your age?

Yes, come November all 53 years of it! I have troubles with shoulder and knees and should be sponsored by Voltarol...

Do you think it's in any way justified that price money for ladies is so much lower than for men?

Surprisingly I don't think it should be the same as the men's but the World's should be 25 000 pound for the winner. The men's first round losers got 50 percent more than I got for being losing finalist - that's not right.

What would be your ideas for a "real" women's World Championship?

Not sour grapes but I feel the Winmau Masters is a real World Championship - the best players from around the world compete. Lakeside definitely needs 16 or 32 ladies, wre need players from North America, Australasia and the Far East as well as the traditional UK and Europeans, The Philippines or Japanese markets could be huge for our game.

You took part in the PDC women World Championship- did you feel that was a good try to build up such a tournament?

I think the PDC event wasn't thought through properly and the wishes of 99 percent of the potential entrants were ignored. I think if the PDC had listened to the ladies they would now be reaping the benefits.

And what would you change with the BDO? Longer format perhaps or more participants?

Longer formats and proper seeding. We need to reward achievement not penalise it. Some of the draws in the BDO you can have 3 top players in one group. I am not scared of anybody but seeding works in the PDC why not with us?

What is for you the biggest difference between female and male darters? And what are the advantages of men and those of women in the sport?

Women tend to be the family carers. I know many fantastic ladies who have to juggle family around the sport. That men don't tend to worry about.

Do you still practice and what do you practice?

I practise about 20 mins a day in my break at work. Do round the board on doubles and power scoring. 3 points for a 180, 2 points for 140 and 1 point for 100. I have 20 turns and aim to score 20 points.

Has your practice changed over the years?

Yes, because of work I do less. Normally I play Friday night warm-up events for my main practice.

Are you perhaps interested in sports psychology and use relaxation techniques or something else?

My biggest opponent is my mind and my focus. I have tried a few exercises with Paul Gillings from the Darts Performance Centre with some success.

How do you prepare for a tournament? Do you do anything special before the World Championship?

Not really though last year I stayed away from the hustle and bustle a bit.

How do you manage to be so consistent?

Probably the hatred of losing and never giving up.

Was it difficult to return on the circuit after your break? Or is a break something one can benefit from?

I only ever came back as my partner Paul said: Do three events and see if you like it. My personal aim was just to see if I could win an event...

How difficult is it still for you to play on TV - as a female BDO player you don't have really a lot of experience.?

My first Lakeside I was very nervous. Then my second year I had an awful amount of personal issues in my mind and I really didn't want to be there. This year was great apart from a slight illness before Lakeside but I really felt I would win. People forget I've only entered three Lakesides as we didn't have a World Championship when I played the tour before.

What do you think - you are winning such a lot of tournaments why is it so difficult for you to play the ladies World Championship?

I don't feel it's difficult for me to play the World Championship. I've been in five, got to two semis and a final. My best performance was when I was allowed to enter with the men and I was one match from the old Embassy World Championship where I lost in the deciding leg to Bobby George.

What do you think is your special strength and what your weakness?

Strength is my mindset which weirdly can be my weakness as well.

As you have a job and play darts - do you still have some leisure time? And might be some hobbies?

I love all sports. When I wasn't playing I watched football, rugby and I was going on 20 mile walks - lol. I even tried golf and kick boxing!

What for you is the best in darts, what fascinates you most?

I love meeting the people. I was warned off going to East Europe as I was told the Poles and Czechs are racists. I can say the Polish and Czech darts organisations and the people are the best in darts. They even use my picture to advertise their events. I am very proud of that.

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