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Kelly Holmes

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Kelly Holmes: Black, White and Gold - My Autobiography

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Dame Kelly Holmes, DBE (MBE)((Mil.)) (born April 19, 1970) is a retired English middle-distance athlete. She won gold medals in the 800 metres and the 1500 metres at the 2004 Summer Olympics.


Early life and army career

Dame Kelly Holmes was born in Pembury, Kent, the daughter of Derrick Holmes, a Jamaican-born car mechanic, and an English mother, Pam Norman. Her mother, 17 at the time of her birth, married painter and decorator Michael Norris two years later, whom Holmes regards as her father, and the couple had four more children before divorcing. Holmes grew up in Hildenborough and attended Hugh Christie Comprehensive School in Tonbridge at the age of 12.

She started training for athletics at the age of 12, joining Tonbridge Athletics Club, where she was coached by David Arnold and went on to win the English schools 1500 metres in her second season. Her hero was British middle distance runner Sebastian Coe, and she was inspired by Coe's successful 1984 Summer Olympics defence of his 1,500 m crown.

Kelly Holmes/Black, White and Gold

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However, Holmes later turned her back on athletics, joining the British Army at the age of 18, having left school two years earlier, working initially as a recreation assistant and later as a nursing assistant. In the Army, she was initially a lorry driver in the Women's Royal Army Corps, and when that corps was disbanded in 1992 she transferred to the Adjutant General's Corps as a physical trainer, reaching the rank of sergeant. She also became British Army judo champion, and in Army athletics events once competed in the men's 800 metres at a meeting, as it was considered that for her to run in the women's event would be too embarrassing for the other competitors. At another event, she competed in and won an 800 metres, a 3000 metres and a relay race all in a single day.

Holmes watched the 1992 Summer Olympics on television, and seeing Lisa York in the heats of the 3,000 metres, an athlete whom she had competed against, and beaten, decided to return to athletics. For several years she combined both athletics and her employment in the army until increased funding allowed her to become a full-time athlete in 1997.

Personal information
Full name: Kelly Holmes
Distance(s): 800 metres, 1500 metres
Date of birth: 19 April 1970 (1970-04-19)
Place of birth: Pembury, Kent
Height: 1.64 metres (5 ft 5 in)[1]
Medal record
Women's Athletics
Olympic Games
Competitor for Great Britain
Gold 2004 Athens 800 m
Gold 2004 Athens 1500 m
Bronze 2000 Sydney 800 m
World Championships
Silver 1995 Gothenburg 1500 m
Silver 2003 Paris 800 m
Bronze 1995 Gothenburg 800 m
World Indoor Championships
Silver 2003 Birmingham 1500 m
European Championships
Silver 1994 Helsinki 1500 m
Bronze 2002 Munich 800 m
Commonwealth Games
Competitor for England
Gold 1994 Victoria 1500 m
Gold 2002 Manchester 1500 m
Silver 1998 Kuala Lumpur 1500 m


The 2004 Athens Olympic Games

While training in 2003 for the 2004 Summer Olympics at a French training camp, Holmes suffered a number of leg injuries. Falling deep into depression, she began to meditate using an English lantern "I made one cut for every day that I had been injured", Holmes stated in an interview with News of the World newspaper. At least once, she considered suicide, but she eventually sought help from a doctor and was diagnosed with clinical depression. While she couldn't use anti-depressants because it would affect her performance, she began using herbal serotonin tablets. (In 2005, after her achievements at the 2004 Summer Olympics, Holmes chose to talk about her self-harm to show others that being a professional athlete is an extremely difficult thing to do and places the athlete under tremendous amounts of stress.)

2004 saw Holmes arrive at a major competition, the Athens Olympics, with no injury worries for just about the first time in her career. She had originally planned to compete in just the 1,500 m but a victory over Jolanda Čeplak before the games had many saying she should take her chance in the 800 as well. Holmes did not announce her decision to race in both events until five days before the 800 m finals.

Along with three time world champion Maria Mutola and Čeplak, Holmes was considered one of the favourites for the gold medal in the 800 m. In the final, Holmes ran a well-paced race, ignoring a fast start by a number of the other competitors, and moved into the lead ahead of Mutola on the final bend, taking the gold on the line ahead of Hasna Benhassi and Čeplak, with Mutola in fourth. Holmes became the seventh British woman to win an athletics gold, and the second after Ann Packer in 1964 to win the 800 metres.

Clearly in form, Holmes now became favourite for the her preferred event, the 1,500 metres on the 28 August. Her most difficult task now was maintaining her focus she later revealed how after waking each morning she had put her medal on and cried.

Again running from the rear of the field, she took the lead in the final straight, holding off World Champion Tatyana Tomashova of Russia. She thus became only the third woman in history to do the 800 and 1500 m double, after Tatyana Kazankina of the Soviet Union in 1976 and Svetlana Masterkova of Russia in 1996, the first British woman to win two Olympic gold medals, and the country's first double gold medallist at the same games since Albert Hill in 1920. Her time of 3 minutes 57.90 seconds in the 1500 m final also set a new British record for the distance.

Subsequently, Holmes was given the honour of carrying the British flag at the closing ceremony of the games, on August 29, the day after her second victory. A home-coming parade was held in her honour through the streets of Hildenborough and Tonbridge on 1 September, which was attended by approximately 40,000 people. This was more than double the size of crowds at the parade through London for all the Olympic medallists, and roughly equivalent to the entire population of Hildenborough and Tonbridge (although there were many visitors from outside the local area). Holmes won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2004, saying she achieved her goals after "twenty years of dreaming". She also asserted the award was "the biggest sporting honour your country can give you". The tributes to her at the BBC awards ceremony were led by the six British female athletes who had previously won gold at the Olympic Games in a "Magnificent Seven"-style feature - those six being Mary Rand, Ann Packer, Mary Peters, Tessa Sanderson, Sally Gunnell and Denise Lewis.

Since the Summer Olympics

Holmes was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the New Year's Honours List of 2005.[1] She was presented with the honour by the Queen at Buckingham Palace on 9 March 2005, accompanied by her parents and grandfather. She had previously been appointed a Member of the Military Division of the same Order (MBE) in 1998 for services to the British Army.

On 28 December 2004, she appeared on The Big Fat Quiz of the Year.

Since 2004, Kelly has taken part in Norwich Union sponsored "On Camp with Kelly" athletics camps helping train junior athletes.

On 21 August 2005, she competed in her final race in the UK, the 800 m at the Norwich Union British Grand Prix meeting in Sheffield. Her training schedule during the summer of 2005 had been disrupted by a recurrent Achilles tendon injury, and she finished the race in 8th place, limping across the finish line and completing a lap of honour on a buggy.

On 6 December 2005, Holmes announced her retirement from athletics stating she had reassessed her future after the death of a friend as well as citing a lack of motivation to continue.

In 2006, Kelly appeared in ITV's Dancing On Ice, partnering with Olympian Todd Sand.

On 16 September 2007, Holmes presented the weekly round-up of sports news on the BBC London News as an apparent substitute for regular presenter Mark Bright. Holmes was introduced by anchorwoman Riz Lateef without explanation. Reading from the autocue in a glamorous dress with elaborate hairstyle, Holmes appeared confident and enthusiastic, leading to speculation that this might presage a career in broadcasting. Neither the BBC nor Holmes have made any public statement.

On 3 December 2007, Holmes appeared at Ernest Bevin College to open its new sports centre.


Year Tournament Venue Event Result
1994 Commonwealth Games Victoria, British Columbia, Canada 1500 m 1st
  European Championships Helsinki, Finland 1500 m 2nd
  IAAF World Cup London, England 1500 m 3rd
  European Cup Birmingham, England 800 m 2nd
1995 World Championships Gothenburg, Sweden 800 m 3rd
      1500 m 2nd
  European Cup Villeneuve d'Ascq, France 800 m 1st
1996 European Cup Madrid, Spain 800 m 2nd
1997 European Cup Munich, Germany 1500 m 1st
1998 Commonwealth Games Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 1500 m 2nd
2000 Summer Olympics Sydney, Australia 800 m 3rd
2002 European Championships Munich, Germany 800 m 3rd
  Commonwealth Games Manchester, England 1500 m 1st
2003 World Championships Paris, France 800 m 2nd
  World Indoor Championships Birmingham, England 1500 m 2nd
  1st IAAF World Athletics Final - Monte Carlo, Monaco 800 m 2nd
2004 Summer Olympics Athens, Greece 800 m 1st
      1500 m 1st
  2nd IAAF World Athletics Final Monte Carlo, Monaco 1500 m 1st
  BBC Sports Personality of the Year     1st

In addition to these achievements, Holmes has also won 12 national titles.

Personal bests:[2]

  • 200m 24.8 (1996)
  • 400m 53.8 (1996)
  • 600m 1:25.41 (2003, UK best)
  • 800m 1:56.21 (1995, UK record)
  • 1000m 2:32.55 (1997, UK record)
  • 1500m 3:57.90 (2004, UK record)
  • 1 mile 4:28.04 (1998)
  • 3000m 9:01.91 (2003)
  • 10km 34:54 (1997)

Indoors: 800m 1:59.21 (2003), 1000m 2:32.96 (2004), 1500m 4:02.66 (2003).


  • In 2005 she named the P&O Cruise ship, Arcadia.[3]
  • She is referenced in the Doctor Who episode "Fear Her" the story takes place in "Dame Kelly Holmes Close". Appropriately enough, it is also set during the 2012 London Olympics.
Women's European Athlete of the Year
BBC Sports Personality of the Year
World Sportswoman of the Year
Sporting positions
Women's 1.500m Best Year Performance
Olympic champion in women's 800 m - 2004

Olympic champion in women's 1500 m - 2004

British Olympic Champion in Women's Athletics - 2004 - (800 m & 1500 m)

References and Notes

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