Olympic dreams for Mirfield marksman

When his dad suffered a sudden heart-attack James Dedman’s life took an unexpected twist, which, combined with a slice of good fortune and determination, has fuelled dreams of becoming an Olympic Champion.

Four years on, with his dad having made a full recovery, Dedman reflected on the events of that day: “My father had shot for forever and a day, as long as I can remember. Then he had a heart attack and had to have a pacemaker fit”.

“For health reasons he was unable to continue shooting, but he had already booked a few days off to shoot and so he said to me, ‘why don’t you have a go’ and I took that opportunity”.

The Mirfield born shooter has never looked back on that decision, especially when 2012 Olympic gold medallist Peter Wilson turned up at his local ground, Beverley Clay Target Centre. “I asked him if he minded giving me a few pointers, to which he stood there in complete astonishment as no one had asked him yet”, the 16-year-old said.

“He said sure and we shot a few rounds, before he ended up coming back to my house for dinner, to my mum’s amazement”.

Following a discussion with his own mentor Ahmed Al Maktoum of the UAE, Wilson agreed to coach Dedman on a full-time basis. Under Wilson’s leadership, Dedman qualified for the 2013 World Championships in Peru as the only British under-21 competitor in the double trap, in which he came fourth.

Despite his success, the trip almost had to be put on hold altogether, when, on arrival into the country, the British duo were mistaken for whale hunters. Due to the way the gun is designed for the double trap event, passport control believed the guns to be harpoons.

“They hadn’t heard of the World Championships because the governing body hadn’t told them”, Dedman said. “Things got a bit heated and they told us that they were going to have to arrest us, before they proceeded to handcuff Peter.”

It was only when the French, Russian and Australian teams turned up and explained the situation that the pair were released after remonstrating for more than two hours. Three days later Dedman and Wilson were handed their guns back, just in time for the competition.

Dedman recalled how he failed to let his family know, despite the episode making the news as a result of a tweet sent by Wilson: “Various people had rung me expressing their worry, but I didn’t want anyone to panic needlessly. It was all a bit of a situation exploding for no reason.”

More than a year later, Dedman has moved to Portugal with his family in order to further his education and shooting career hand-in-hand, balancing the two at the Vilamoura International College.

Despite having to adjust to life away from his friends in the UK, extra time off schooling to develop his shooting skills could prove to be crucial in enhancing Dedman’s chances of competing at the Olympics.

An appearance in Rio 2016 would see Dedman become the youngest ever athlete to compete in the Olympics in the history of shooting, however he feels that it may come about too soon: “Peter managed it in six years whereas I have done it for only three. He was very, very fast to get to London 2012”.

“It’s not impossible, but it might as well be. More realistically for me is to target the 2020 games in Tokyo. It could change as it’s still two years away and it’s always best if you think you are headed for C and end up at A”.

Dedman continued: “Apart from Sir Patrick Stewart I can’t think of anybody really from Mirfield, especially not any great sportsmen so it would be great to be able represent my home town. It’s something quite special to be able to compete for your country, for me it would be a great honour.”

Whilst dreams of becoming a gold medallist and emulating Wilson’s achievements may have to go on hold for now, Dedman is focussed on carrying Team GB’s shooting hopes of the future.

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