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.
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. 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. 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). 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, although she remained in the Adjutant General's Corps after the disbandment of the WRAC in 1992. 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.
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.
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. 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. 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. Her time of 3 minutes 57.90 seconds in the 1500m final 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 29 August, 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. 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.
In 2008, Holmes founded the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, a registered charity, to support young athletes and help the lives of young people facing disadvantage across the UK. 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.
In 2005, she won the Laureus World Sports Award for Sportswoman of the Year. The same year, she named the P&O Cruise ship MS Arcadia. 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. 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."
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 early 2015, she took part in the ITV series Bear Grylls: Mission Survive.
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|2001||World Championships||Edmonton, Canada||6th||800m||1:59.76|
|2002||European Championships||Munich, Germany||3rd||800m||1:59.83|
|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|
|IAAF World Athletics Final||Monte Carlo, Monaco||1st||1500m||4:04.55|
|Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE)||(Civil Division) 2005 "for services to athletics". She was invested with the honour by HM The Queen at Buckingham Palace on 9 March 2005, accompanied by her parents and grandfather.|
|Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)||(Military Division) 1998 "for services to the British Army".|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kelly Holmes.|
|Women's European Athlete of the Year
|BBC Sports Personality of the Year
|World Sportswoman of the Year