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

Holmes 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 and 1000 metre distances.

Inspired by a number of successful British middle distance runners in the late 1970s and 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 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 Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2005. She retired from athletics in 2005 and has since made a number of television appearances.

She participated as a contestant in the 2015 series of Bear Grylls: Mission Survive and was the runner-up after the 12-day survival mission.

Early life and army career

Holmes was born in Pembury, Kent, the daughter of Derrick Holmes, a Jamaican-born car mechanic, and an English 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. 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 1500 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 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 Army's new Physical Training syllabus, and successfully 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).

Holmes eventually qualified as a sergeant class 1 PTI,[2] 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 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. She also won the heptathlon.

Holmes watched the 1992 Summer Olympics on television, and on seeing Lisa York in the heats of the 3000 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, until increased funding allowed her to become a full-time athlete in 1997.

2004 Athens Olympic Games

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 to meditate using an English lantern[clarification needed] "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.[3]

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.

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 1500 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 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 1500m 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 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 Trust

In 2008, Holmes founded the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, a registered charity,[4] to support young athletes and help the lives of young people facing disadvantage across the UK.[5] 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.[6]

Post-athletics career

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).[7]

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.[8] 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.

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; she was introduced by anchorwoman Riz Lateef without explanation.

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."[9]

In 2010, Holmes was inducted into the England Athletics Hall of Fame. In November of that year, Holmes took part on the ITV game show The Cube. She lost a record-breaking 8 lives on her second game "Gradient" and was defeated but still took away £1,000 for her charity.

In October 2011, Holmes 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.[10]

In early 2015, she took part in the ITV series Bear Grylls: Mission Survive.

In 2017, Holmes presented episode 5 of the BBC One television series Women at War: 100 Years of Service.[11]

Personal bests

Event Time Venue Date
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 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.[12][13][14]

Competition record

Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
Representing the  United Kingdom 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 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

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".[15] 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".

Artistic recognition

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.[16]



  1. ^ uk:athletics profile. Archived 21 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 17 August 2008
  2. ^ "Royal Army Physical Training Corps". army.mod.uk. Retrieved 23 October 2016. 
  3. ^ "Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes 'cut herself daily'". BBC News. 24 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017. 
  4. ^ Charity Commission. DKH Legacy Trust, registered charity no. 1128529. 
  5. ^ DKH Legact Trust Archived 28 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine. web site
  6. ^ "Dame Kelly Holmes racing Powerman UK this May". 220 Triathlon. Retrieved 25 March 2014. 
  7. ^ "About". On Camp with Kelly. Retrieved 18 November 2017. 
  8. ^ P&O Cruises Official Website Learn More – Our Ships – About Arcadia Archived 31 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ "BBC Sports". BBC News. 19 May 2009. Retrieved 21 October 2011. 
  10. ^ "MoneyForce". RBL. 12 March 2013. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  11. ^ {{Women at War: 100 Years of Service at BBC Programmes
  12. ^ Biographies: Holmes, Kelly. Retrieved on 10 April 2009.
  13. ^ United Kingdom All-time Lists – Women (800–5000). GBR Athletics. Retrieved on 10 March 2009.
  14. ^ United Kingdom All-time Lists – Women (60–600). GBR Athletics. Retrieved on 10 March 2009.
  15. ^ "No. 57509". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2004. p. 7. 
  16. ^ http://www.louisegiblin.co.uk/

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