Kelly Holmes

Kelly Holmes
Dame Kelly Holmes
Personal information
Full name Kelly Holmes
Nationality British
Born 19 April 1970 (1970-04-19) (age 41)
Residence Hildenborough, Kent
Height 1.64 m (5 ft 4 12 in)[1]
Sport Running
Event(s) 800 metres, 1500 metres

Dame Kelly Holmes, DBE, MBE(Mil.) (born 19 April 1970) is a retired British middle distance athlete. She specialised in the 800 metres and 1500 metres events and won a gold medal for both distances at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. She set British records in numerous events and still holds the records over the 600, 800, 1000, and 1500 metres distances.

Inspired by Sebastian Coe, Holmes began competing in middle distance events in her youth. She joined the British Army but continued to compete at the organisation's athletics events. She turned to the professional athletics circuit in the early 1990s and in 1994 she won the 1500 m at the Commonwealth Games and took silver at the European Championships. She won a silver and a bronze medal at the 1995 Gothenburg World Championships but suffered from various injuries over the following two years, failing to gain a medal at her first Olympics in Atlanta 1996. She won silver in the 1500 m at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and bronze in the 800 m at the 2000 Sydney Olympics; her first Olympic medal.

Holmes won the 1500 m at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and the 800 m bronze at the Munich European Championships that year. The 2003 track season saw her take silver in the 1500 m at the World Indoor Championships and the 800 m silver medals at the World Championships and first World Athletics Final. She took part in her final major championship in 2004— she turned in a double gold medal-winning performance at the Athens Olympics, finishing as the 800 m and 1500 m Olympic Champion. For her achievements she won numerous awards and was appointed a dame by HM The Queen in 2005. She retired from athletics in 2005 and has since made a number of television appearances.


Early life and army career

Holmes was born in Pembury, Kent, the daughter of Derrick Holmes, a Jamaican-born car mechanic, and a British mother, Pam Norman. Her mother, 18 at the time of her birth, married painter and decorator Michael Norris, whom Holmes regards as her father, seven years later, and the couple had two more children (Kevin b. 1977 and Stuart b. 1980) before splitting up in 1987. Holmes grew up in Hildenborough and attended Hildenborough CEP School, and then Hugh Christie Comprehensive School in Tonbridge at the age of 12.[citation needed]

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 in 1983.[citation needed] Her hero was British middle distance runner Sebastian Coe, and she was inspired by Coe's successful 1984 Summer Olympics defence of his 1500 m crown.[citation needed]

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 shop assistant in a sweet shop and later as a nursing assistant for disabled patients.[citation needed] In the Army, she was initially a lorry driver in the Women's Royal Army Corps (WRAC), later becoming a basic physical training instructor (PTI).[citation needed] Holmes then elected in June 1990 to attend the first course to be run under the new Army Physical Training Corps syllabus, and successfully passed out as a Class 2 PTI.[citation needed] Although militarily quite young, Holmes' athletic prowess was impressive and she was encouraged to attend the course selection for full-time transfer to the Army Physical Training Corps (APTC).[citation needed]

Holmes eventually qualified as a Sergeant Class 1 PTI, although she remained in the Adjutant General's Corps after the disbandment of the WRAC in 1992.[citation needed] She also became British Army judo champion,[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] At another event, she competed in and won an 800 metres, a 3000 metres and a relay race all in a single day. She also won the Heptathlon.[citation needed]

Holmes watched the 1992 Summer Olympics on television, and seeing Lisa York in the heats of the 3000 metres, an athlete whom she had competed against, and beaten, decided to return to athletics.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

2004 Athens Olympic Games

While training in 2003 for the 2004 Summer Olympics at a French training camp, Holmes suffered leg injuries and was very depressed, 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 could not use anti-depressants because it would affect her performance, she began using herbal serotonin tablets.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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 1500 m but a victory over Jolanda Čeplak before the games had many saying she should take her chance in the 800 m as well.[citation needed] Holmes did not announce her decision to race in both events until five days before the 800 m finals.[citation needed]

Along with three time World Champion Maria de Lurdes Mutola and Čeplak, Holmes was considered one of the favourites for the gold medal in the 800 m.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] Holmes became the seventh British woman to win an athletics gold, and the second after Ann Packer in 1964 to win the 800 metres.[citation needed]

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

Holmes on parade

Subsequently, Holmes was given the honour of carrying the British flag at the closing ceremony of the games, on 29 August, the day after her second victory.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust

On her retirement from first-class athletics Dame Kelly wanted to create a legacy from her career that would benefit the young people who look up to, and are inspired by elite sports performers like herself. Having seen first-hand the difference that world class sports performers can make to young people’s lives, Dame Kelly set up her own charity in 2008, the DKH Legacy Trust. Its mission is to 'create life chances for young people'.[2]

Damehood and post-athletics career

Holmes was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the New Year's Honours List of 2005.[3] She was presented with the honour by the Queen at Buckingham Palace on 9 March 2005, accompanied by her parents and grandfather.[citation needed] She had previously been appointed a Member of the Military Division of the same Order (MBE) in 1998 for services to the British Army.[citation needed]

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

In 2005, she won the Laureus World Sports Award for Sportswoman of the Year.[citation needed] That same year, she named the P&O Cruise ship MS Arcadia.[4]

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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Kelly is the aunt of British decathlete, Andrew Holmes.[5]

In May 2009 Holmes was named as the new president of Commonwealth Games England, succeeding Sir Chris Chataway, who had held the post since 1994.[citation needed] Commonwealth Games England chairman Sir Andrew Foster said: "Dame Kelly has been an outstanding athlete both for Team England and Great Britain. "She is a truly inspirational and respected figure in the sporting world and will be a wonderful ambassador for Commonwealth Games England." [6]

In 2010, she was inducted into the England Athletics Hall of Fame.

In October 2011 Holmes appeared live on Dubai One lifestyle show Studio One (TV Series) as she talked about her life and career after athletics.

Personal bests

Event Time Venue Date 03/02/10
600 metres 1:25.41 (British record) Liège, Belgium 2 September 2003
800 metres 1:56.21 (British record) Monte Carlo, Monaco 9 September 1995
800 metres (indoor) 1:59.21 Ghent, Belgium 9 February 2003
1000 metres 2:32.55 (British record) Leeds, United Kingdom 15 June 1997
1000 metres (indoor) 2:32.96 (British record) Birmingham, United Kingdom 20 February 2004
1500 metres 3:57.90 (British record) Athens, Greece 28 August 2004
1500 metres (indoor) 4:02.66 (British record) Birmingham, United Kingdom 16 March 2003
One mile 4:28.04 Glasgow, United Kingdom 30 August 1998
3000 metres 9:01.91 Gateshead, United Kingdom 13 July 2003
  • All information taken from IAAF profile and UK All time lists.[7][8][9]

Competition record

Year Competition Venue Position Notes
1993 World Championships Stuttgart, Germany 800 m 5th (sf)
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
Olympic Games Atlanta, Georgia, United States 800 m 4th
1500 m 11th
1997 European Cup Munich, Germany 1500 m 1st
1998 Commonwealth Games Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 1500 m 2nd
1999 World Championships Seville, Spain 800 m 4th (sf)
2000 Summer Olympics Sydney, Australia 800 m 3rd
1500 m 7th
2001 World Championships Edmonton, Canada 800 m 2nd
2002 European Championships Munich, Germany 800 m 3rd
1500 m 4th (h)
Commonwealth Games Manchester, England 1500 m 1st
2003 World Championships Paris, France 800 m 2nd
1500 m 9th
World Indoor Championships Birmingham, England 1500 m 2nd
IAAF World Athletics Final Monte Carlo, Monaco 800 m 2nd
2004 Summer Olympics Athens, Greece 800 m 1st
1500 m 1st
IAAF World Athletics Final Monte Carlo, Monaco 1500 m 1st
  • Note: In addition to these achievements, Holmes has also won 12 national titles.

See also


  • Holmes, Kelly; Richard Lewis (2004). My Olympic Ten Days. Virgin Books. ISBN 1-85227-222-8. 
  • Holmes, Kelly (2005). Kelly Holmes: Black, White & Gold:The Autobiography. Virgin Books. ISBN 1-85227-224-4. 


  1. ^ uk:athletics profile. Retrieved on 2008-08-17
  2. ^ [ Charity web site]
  3. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 57509. p. 7. 2004-12-31. Retrieved 2008-07-12.
  4. ^ P&O Cruises Official Website | Learn More - Our Ships - About Arcadia
  5. ^ "Athlete Profile". 1987-02-28. Retrieved 2011-10-21. 
  6. ^ "BBC Sports". BBC News. 2009-05-19. Retrieved 2011-10-21. 
  7. ^ Biographies: Holmes, Kelly. Retrieved on 2009-04-10.
  8. ^ United Kingdom All-time Lists - Women (800-5000). GBR Athletics. Retrieved on 2009-03-10.
  9. ^ United Kingdom All-time Lists - Women (60-600). GBR Athletics. Retrieved on 2009-03-10.

External links

Preceded by
Sweden Carolina Klüft
Women's European Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
Russia Yelena Isinbayeva
Preceded by
England Jonny Wilkinson
BBC Sports Personality of the Year
Succeeded by
England Andrew Flintoff
Preceded by
Sweden Annika Sörenstam
World Sportswoman of the Year
Succeeded by
Croatia Janica Kostelić

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