BYU track star finds a home halfway across the world

Fatima runs the first leg of a 4 x 100 meter relay.

“Just call me ‘Fatty,'” she tells people.

But with a time of 13.59 in the 100-meter hurdles, BYU women’s track team captain is anything but chubby. She prefers the nickname, she said, because few people can remember, much less pronounce her real name: Fatima Manziemie Makakala Dedrickson.

“When I first met her she said, ‘I’m Fatty,’ and I thought,’There is no way you are getting me to call a young woman fatty,’ but after a very short period of time I opened up to her a little bit and realized that she actually does like to be called ‘Fatty,’” BYU Women’s Assistant Track Coach Corey Murdock said.

Known for her infectious laugh and kind heart, Dedrickson, a senior hurdler studying psychology, is perhaps one of the most diverse people on BYU campus.

As Murdock put it, she’s a multilingual, LDS, Swedish-born-Congo-African “married to a white kid from Utah.”

Now, as the team captain of the women’s track team, Dedrickson has become a mentor to all of the girls on the team.

“When she talks to you she doesn’t just hear what you’re saying, she actually listens to what you’re saying,” said teammate and former roommate Elizabeth Wilson, a junior long jumper from Plymouth, Minn. “She’s the girl that everyone would trust with their lives.”

According to Wilson, Dedrickson’s life experiences have helped make her a natural leader and a wonderful friend.

Dedrickson was born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden, but her parents, Fidel and Sidonie Makakala, emigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo in the mid 1980s to escape social and political unrest. Shortly after relocating, the Makakalas met the missionaries and began investigating the Church.

“My dad … grew up Christian, but he wasn’t that super religious,” Dedrickson said. “My dad is just really talkative so he saw the missionaries and started talking to them.”

Her parents were both baptized and sealed in the temple a year later in 1989, just two months after Dedrickson was born.

As the sixth of eight children, Dedrickson grew up close to her family and close to the gospel, but one of her greatest passions, she said, was running. In high school, Dedrickson ran on the fastest 4 x 100 meter relay team in Sweden, was ranked second nationally in the 100-meter hurdles and helped lead her high school to win the Swedish Championship in track.

“She’s meant to be a runner,” Wilson said. “It just comes naturally to her.”

Following high school graduation, however, Dedrickson was unsure how to continue her running career. But after visiting her brother in the U.S., and with a little inspiration from fellow Swede and BYU all-American Niklas Arrhenius, Dedrickson decided BYU was the place for her.

The only problem was Dedrickson couldn’t speak English.

“My English was horrible, and I mean horrible,” Dedrickson said. “I honestly do not know how I passed the SAT.”

But pass she did and, within a short time, Dedrickson was able to add English to the long list of languages she speaks fluently. These include French, Swedish, Lingala (the native Bantu language of the Congo) and Spanish. The transition, however, wasn’t easy.

“The hardest was my freshman year when I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t really know the language that well,” Dedrickson said. “I had to spend every holiday without my family.”

With her parents halfway across the world, Dedrickson’s teammates and coaches stepped in to take care of her. Families of teammates invited Dedrickson home for holidays and treated her like she was one of their own, Dedrickson said.

Now as the team captain, Dedrickson has had the chance to repay that favor and take others under her wing.

“She’s the mother hen of that group,” Murdock said, “and she looks over all of those little girls like they’re her own.”

After a senior season plagued by a nagging hip flexer injury, Dedrickson ended her career at BYU with one last race at the NCAA West Regional track meet in Austin, Texas. Despite hitting several hurdles because of a strong tail wind, Dedrickson still described it as one of the best races she’s ever had.

“It was a great way to end my BYU career,” she said.

Fatima poses with her husband, Benjamin Dedrickson, on their wedding day.

As graduation nears, Dedrickson is still considering her options with a little help from her coach.

“We have plans to talk later on in the week and sit down to discuss her options with her career,” Murdock said. “She actually has some options there in Sweden because she is one of the top-ranked hurdlers there.”

Dedrickson said she would love to continue her running career, but she wouldn’t mind starting a family instead either.

“She’s been baby-hungry for a while now,” Murdock said jokingly.

No matter what the future holds for Dedrickson, two things probably won’t change: she’ll always laugh at life and she’ll still insist that people call her Fatty.

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