Monday, September 21, 2009
Kelly Holmes (born: April 19, 1970) is a British middle distance athlete. Regarded as the best female middle distance runner Great Britain has ever produced, she won gold medals in the 800 meters and the 1,500 meters at the 2004 Summer Olympics. Early life and army career.
Holmes was born in Pembury, Kent, the mixed-race daughter of Derrick Holmes, Jamaican-born car mechanic, and an English mother, Pam Norman. Her mother, only 18 at the time of Kelly’s birth, would marry painter and decorator Michael Norris two years later, whom Kelly regards as her father, and they had four children together before divorcing. She grew up in Hildenborough and attended Hugh Christie Comprehensive School in Tonbridge, one of the only black children on her estate.
Holmes starting training for athletics aged 12, joining Tonbridge Athletics Club, where she was coached by David Arnold and went on to win the national schools’ 1500 metres in her second season. Her hero was British middle distance runner Sebastian Coe, and she was inspired by Coe’s succesful 1984 Summer Olympics defence of his 1,500m crown. 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 Auxiliary Corp, later transferring to the Adjutants General 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.
Initial athletics career
She won the national 800m in 1993 and the 1500m in 1994. She won gold at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in the 1500 metres, competing for England. (Unlike in other international competitions such as the Olympics and World & European Championships, in the Commonwealth Games the British countries compete separately).
Holmes has suffered setbacks caused by injuries. In 1996, she suffered a stress fracture and finished fourth in the Atlanta Olympics. In 1997, a slightly torn calf in training resulted in a ruptured achilles tendon which ended her in Athens World Championships in the heats, hobbling home half a lap behind her competitors.
Going into the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia on the back of just six weeks’ intensive training because of a virus, she finished third in the 800m. The winner of that race, Maria Mutola of Mozambique would later become her training partner, as Holmes moved to Africa to train and live with her.
2004 Summer Olympics
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 Ceplak 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 800m finals.
Along with three time world champion Mutola and Ceplak, Holmes was considered one of the favourites for the gold medal in the 800m. 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 Ceplak, 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 1500m 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 1500m 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 September 1, which was attended by approximately 40,000 people – more than double the size of crowds at the parade through London for all the Olympic medallists. She is also odds-on favourite to take the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in December 2004.