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Video: Kelly Holmes
  • September 5th, 2008

Continuation of Olympic withdrawal syndrome week. The athlete in the spotlight, Kelly Holmes of Great Britain from 2004 Athens who did a double at the games 800m & 1500m

Kelly Holmes Success Story

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 ?eplak 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 de Lurdes Mutola and ?eplak, 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 ?eplak, 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.

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Posted by Uncle Sha.
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