Kelly Holmes

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Kelly Holmes
Kelly Holmes at Athens 2004 cropped.jpg
Holmes at the 2004 Summer Olympics
Personal information
Full nameKelly Holmes
Born (1970-04-19) 19 April 1970 (age 51)
Pembury, Kent, England
Height1.64 m (5 ft 5 in)[1]
Event(s)800 metres, 1,500 metres

Dame Kelly Holmes DBE OLY (born 19 April 1970) is a retired English middle distance athlete.

Holmes specialised in the 800 metres and 1,500 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, and 1,000 metre distances. She held the British 800 metre record until 2021.

Inspired by a number of successful British middle-distance runners in the early 1980s, 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 1993 and in 1994 she won the 1,500 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 years, failing to gain a medal at her first Olympics in Atlanta 1996 when running with a stress fracture. She won silver in the 1,500 m at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and bronze in the 800 m at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, her first Olympic medal.

Holmes won the 1,500 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 1,500 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, with a double gold medal-winning performance at the Athens Olympics, finishing as the 800 m and 1,500 m Olympic Champion. For her achievements she won numerous awards and was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2005. She retired from athletics in 2005 and has since been made an honorary Colonel with the Royal Armoured Corps Training Centre. She has become a global motivational speaker, published five books, her latest being Running Life, and made a number of television appearances.

Early life and army career[edit]

Holmes was born in Pembury, Kent, the daughter of Derrick Holmes, a Jamaican-born car mechanic, and an English mother, Pam Norman. Her mother was 18 at the time of her birth, and married painter and decorator Michael Norris, whom Holmes regards as her father, seven years later. Holmes grew up in Hildenborough, Kent, where she attended Hildenborough CEP School, and then Hugh Christie Comprehensive School in Tonbridge from 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 1,500 metres in her second season in 1983.[citation needed] Her hero was British middle-distance runner Steve Ovett, and she was inspired by his success at the 1980 Summer Olympics.

However, Holmes later turned away from athletics, joining the British Army at the age of 18, having left school two years earlier to work first as an assistant in a sweet shop and later as a nursing assistant for disabled patients.[citation needed] In the Army, she became a HGV driver in the Women's Royal Army Corps (WRAC), later becoming a basic physical training instructor (PTI).[2] Holmes then elected in June 1990 to attend the first course to be run under the Army's new Physical Training syllabus, and passed out as a Class 2 PTI. Although militarily quite young, Holmes' athletic prowess was impressive and she was encouraged to attend the course selection for full-time transfer to the Royal Army Physical Training Corps (RAPTC) at Aldershot.

Holmes eventually qualified as a sergeant class 1 PTI,[3] 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 and at an athletics event, she competed in and won an 800 metres, a 3,000 metres and a relay race in a single day. She also won the heptathlon.[citation needed]

Holmes watched the 1992 Summer Olympics on television, and on seeing Lisa York in the heats of the 3,000 metres – an athlete whom she had competed against, and beaten – she decided to return to athletics. For several years she combined athletics with employment in the Army,[4] until increased funding allowed her to become a full-time athlete in 1997.


2004 Athens Olympic Games[edit]

Holmes on parade

While training in 2003 for the 2004 Summer Olympics at a French training camp, Holmes suffered leg injuries and was depressed, she began cutting herself.[5] "I made one cut for every day that I had been injured", Holmes stated in an interview with the 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. 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. Later, in September 2017, Holmes explained that "at my lowest, I was cutting myself with scissors every day that I was injured." Holmes's honesty quickly won her praise from people on Twitter.[6]

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 m as well.[citation needed] 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 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.

In the final of the 1,500 m, 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 1,500 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 1,500m final set a new British record for the distance.[citation needed]

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 homecoming 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 "20 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]

Personal bests[edit]

Event Time Venue Date
600 metres 1:25.41 (British record) Liège, Belgium 2 September 2003
800 metres 1:56.21 Monte Carlo, Monaco 9 September 1995
800 metres (indoor) 1:59.21 (British record until 2021) Ghent, Belgium 9 February 2003
1000 metres 2:32.55 (British record) Leeds, United Kingdom 15 June 1997
1000 metres (indoor) 2:32.96 Birmingham, United Kingdom 20 February 2004
1500 metres 3:57.90 Athens, Greece 28 August 2004
1500 metres (indoor) 4:02.66 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[edit]

Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
Representing  Great Britain and  England
1993 World Championships Stuttgart, Germany 5th (sf) 800m 1:58.64
1994 Commonwealth Games Victoria, British Columbia, Canada 1st 1500m 4:08.86
European Championships Helsinki, Finland 2nd 1500m 4:19.30
IAAF World Cup London, England 3rd 1500m 4:10.81
European Cup Birmingham, England 2nd 1500m 4:06.48
1995 World Championships Gothenburg, Sweden 3rd 800m 1:56.95
2nd 1500m 4:03.04
European Cup Villeneuve-d'Ascq, France 1st 1500m 4:07.02
1996 European Cup Madrid, Spain 2nd 800m 1:58.20
Olympic Games Atlanta, Georgia, United States 4th 800m 1:58.81
11th 1500m 4:07.46
1997 European Cup Munich, Germany 1st 1500m 4:04.79
1998 Commonwealth Games Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 2nd 1500m 4:06.10
1999 World Championships Seville, Spain 4th (sf) 800m 2:00.77
2000 Summer Olympics Sydney, Australia 3rd 800m 1:56.80
7th 1500m 4:08.02
2001 World Championships Edmonton, Canada 6th 800m 1:59.76
2002 European Championships Munich, Germany 3rd 800m 1:59.83
11th (h) 1500m 4:08.11
Commonwealth Games Manchester, England 1st 1500m 4:05.99
2003 World Championships Paris, France 2nd 800m 2:00.18
World Indoor Championships Birmingham, England 2nd 1500m 4:02.66
IAAF World Athletics Final Monte Carlo, Monaco 2nd 800m 1:59.92
2004 World Indoor Championships Budapest, Hungary 9nd 1500m 4:12.30
Summer Olympics Athens, Greece 1st 800m 1:56.38
1st 1500m 3:57.90
IAAF World Athletics Final Monte Carlo, Monaco 1st 1500m 4:04.55
  • Note: In addition to these achievements, Holmes has also won 12 national titles.

Honours and awards[edit]

Order of the British Empire (Civil) Ribbon.png Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) (Civil Division) 2005 "for services to athletics".[10] She was invested with the honour by HM The Queen at Buckingham Palace on 9 March 2005, accompanied by her parents and grandfather.
Order of the British Empire (Military) Ribbon.png Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) (Military Division) 1998 "for services to the British Army".

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

In 2018, she was made Honorary Colonel of the Royal Armoured Corps Training Regiment.[11]

Dame Kelly Holmes Trust[edit]

In 2008, Holmes founded the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, a registered charity,[12] to support young athletes and help the lives of young people facing disadvantage across the UK.[13] As part of her pledge to the charity, she participated in the Powerman UK duathlon in 2014, one of several fundraising events she took part in.[14]

Post-athletics career[edit]

Since 2004, Holmes has taken part in "On Camp with Kelly" athletics camps which train junior athletes, sponsored by insurance company Aviva (formerly Norwich Union).[15]

In 2005, she won the Laureus World Sports Award for Sportswoman of the Year.[citation needed] The same year, she named the P&O Cruise ship MS Arcadia.[16] On 21 August, 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 eighth 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 May 2009, Holmes was named as the president of Commonwealth Games England, succeeding Sir Chris Chataway, who had held the post since 1994.[citation needed] The organisation's 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."[17]

Television and radio[edit]

In November 2010, Holmes took part in the ITV game show The Cube. In October 2011, she appeared live on Dubai One lifestyle show Studio One where she talked about her life and career after athletics.

In 2013 Holmes became the face of MoneyForce, a programme run by the Royal British Legion to deliver money advice to the UK Armed Forces.[18]

In early 2015, she took part in the ITV series Bear Grylls: Mission Survive and was the runner-up after a 12-day survival mission.

In 2017, Holmes presented episode five of the BBC One television series Women at War: 100 Years of Service.[19]

In December 2017, Holmes spoke about her 2003 mental health issues in an episode of All in the Mind on BBC Radio 4[20] and in 2018 was one of the judges of the programme's awards.[21]

Cafe 1809 and The 1809 Hub[edit]

In 2014 Holmes opened a cafe and community hub in Hildenborough named Cafe 1809 after her 2004 Olympics bib number. She opened a sister branch of the cafe in Gravesend in 2017, but this closed after a few months.

In October 2018 Holmes announced the cafe would close the following month, before re-opening as The 1809 Hub – "a space for events, pop-ups, and community gatherings".[22]

Artistic recognition[edit]

In 2012, Holmes was one of five Olympians chosen for a series of body-casting artworks by Louise Giblin, exhibited in London with copies being sold in aid of the charity Headfirst.[23]


  • 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. Archived 21 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 17 August 2008
  2. ^ "Col Dame Kelly Holmes – Personally Speaking Bureau". Archived from the original on 11 December 2019. Retrieved 11 December 2019.
  3. ^ "Royal Army Physical Training Corps". Archived from the original on 21 October 2016. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  4. ^ "Kelly Holmes on the story of the picture". Spikes Magazine. 2008. Archived from the original on 20 May 2009.
  5. ^ Laville, Sandra (24 September 2017). "Kelly Holmes reveals she self-harmed at height of athletics career". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 17 October 2019. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  6. ^ "Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes 'cut herself daily'". BBC News. 24 September 2017. Archived from the original on 24 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  7. ^ Biographies: Holmes, Kelly Archived 21 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 10 April 2009.
  8. ^ United Kingdom All-time Lists – Women (800–5000) Archived 22 December 2018 at the Wayback Machine. GBR Athletics. Retrieved 10 March 2009.
  9. ^ United Kingdom All-time Lists – Women (60–600) Archived 25 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine. GBR Athletics. Retrieved 10 March 2009.
  10. ^ "No. 57509". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2004. p. 7.
  11. ^ "Dame Kelly Holmes becomes Honorary Colonel". Athletics Weekly. Great Run Publishing. 24 September 2018. Archived from the original on 4 October 2018. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  12. ^ "DKH Legacy Trust, registered charity no. 1128529". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  13. ^ DKH Legact Trust Archived 28 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine web site
  14. ^ "Dame Kelly Holmes racing Powerman UK this May". 220 Triathlon. Archived from the original on 25 March 2014. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  15. ^ "About". On Camp with Kelly. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  16. ^ P&O Cruises Official Website | Learn More – Our Ships – About Arcadia Archived 31 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "BBC Sports". BBC News. 19 May 2009. Archived from the original on 24 May 2009. Retrieved 21 October 2011.
  18. ^ "MoneyForce". RBL. 12 March 2013. Archived from the original on 11 April 2013. Retrieved 20 March 2013.
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 November 2017. Retrieved 26 June 2019.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ "All in the Mind: 19 December 2017" at BBC Online
  21. ^ "All in the Mind: Awards Ceremony, 26 June 2018" at BBC Online
  22. ^ "Olympic star's café to close". Kent Online. 31 October 2018. Archived from the original on 3 November 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  23. ^ "Louise Giblin Sculptor". Archived from the original on 25 June 2014. Retrieved 20 August 2014.

External links[edit]

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