Regarded by many to be the best female middle-distance runner to ever come from Great Britain, Kelly Holmes has been at the forefront of British Athletics since the early 1990’s. She was a consistent top class performer in the Grand Prix circuit, won European and Commonwealth Championship medals.
She also won medals at the Goodwill Games World Cup, European Cup events, and the World Athletics finals. She held numerous National titles and records, and won Olympic bronze in the 800m in Sydney in 2000. However, all these wonderful records were eclipsed when, she won double Olympic Gold in 2004.
Kelly Holmes was born in Kent in 1970. She first took an interest in athletics when she joined the Tonbridge Athletics club when she was 12 years of age. The following year she won the Schools Junior 1500m title. In 1987 she went on to become a Junior Internationalist, but just a year later aged 18 Holmes gave up her promising athletics career and joined the British Army.
Her first job in the Army was driving large trucks, but her interest in sports and fitness lead her to train as a Physical Training Instructor. During her career in the army, where she reached the rank of sergeant, Kelly pursued her interest in sport and became army judo champion. She also continued running in army competitions. At one meeting she ran as part of a relay team, she ran the 800m, as well as the 3000m.All these competitions were ran in a single day and Kelly won them all.
While still pursuing her army career, Kelly Holmes made a return to competitive athletics in 1992 after a four year break. In her first year back she won the Southern Area’s 800m title and was also selected to compete as an International, at Under 23 level. A year later she made a breakthrough when she won the National 800m title and also won a Grand Prix event in Stockholm.
At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Holmes ran with a stress facture in her left leg and still managed to place fourth. Her career over the next couple of years seemed to be blighted with injury. At the World Championships in 1997 as a clear favourite for a medal, she dropped out of her semi-final heat with a ruptured Achilles. Kelly also left the army this year to concentrate on her athletics.
At the 2000 Olympics she won the bronze medal in the 800m, despite having had only six weeks of training beforehand, due to a virus. She ran her best time for the season in the race, making a bold bid for Gold when she ook the lead on the last lap, but unfortunately was unable to hold on for the win. She also finished seventh in the 1500m final, despite it being her first race of the season at the distance.
She moved to Africa later the same year to train with Maria Mutola. The athlete from Mozambique, had been the winner of the Olympic 800m, and there’s no doubt that Kelly’s decision to train with the best, was instrumental in her performances over the next few years.
At the Athens Olympics in 2004, Holmes arrived in good form, and injury free, for probably the first time at a major championship. Initially Holmes had decided to race in only the 1500m, but with her form being so good she decided just before the qualifying heats to run in the 800m too.
In the 800m final she sat at the back of the field, ignoring a strong pace set by the leaders. She gradually moved her way through the field and by the time she came off the final bend she was in the lead, and just managed to hold on for victory. She was now the favourite for the 1500m as this was her number one event. As she had done in the 800m she started at the back of the field, and with a well timed run took the lead in the final straight. She had become only the third woman in history to do the 800m 1500m double. She also became Great Britain’s first woman double gold medallist in 84 years.
Because of her outstanding achievement, Holmes was honoured with carrying the flag for Great Britain at the closing ceremony. She was honoured by the nation when she was awarded the DBE in the 2005 honors list. Dame Kelly Holmes (as she had become) announced her retirement from competition later that year, but left us all with the thrilling memories of her double gold success.
2004 Athens Olympic Games – Gold (2)
2000 Sydney Olympic Games – Bronze
World Championships – Silver (1995,2003),Bronze (1995)
2003 World Indoor Championships – Silver
European Championships – Silver (1994), Bronze (2002)