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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 September, 2004, 05:29 GMT 06:29 UK
The golden girl on a publicity whirl
By James Clarke
BBC News Online

Kelly Holmes on her bus parade through Tonbridge
A bus parade through Kelly Holmes' home town attracted 40,000 fans

The achievements of Olympic double gold medal winner Kelly Holmes have changed her life forever.

The winner of the 800m and 1500m in Athens has found herself transformed from an athlete well known by sports fans and her peers, to a national heroine.

And while she knows the public and media fascination with her will soon die down, at the moment she is enjoying the fame which has seen her meet Hollywood A-lister Tom Cruise and made her mother a minor TV celebrity.

Borrowed an outfit

"It's been pretty hectic - a lot more people know me, but I'm still me," she told BBC News Online, while on a visit to the school in Tonbridge where she first caught the running bug.

"I just have to take it in my stride. I'm still training, I've still got my plans and I was still on the track last night."

But her training schedule has had to fit around an open-top bus parade through her home town, cheered on by 40,000 fans.

Kelly Holmes is reunited with her mother at Gatwick Airport
Kelly was reunited with her mother in front of huge crowds at Gatwick

On Saturday she appeared on the Parkinson chat show, alongside comedian Billy Connolly and actor Tom Cruise.

She admitted having to borrow an outfit to wear because all her clothes except sportswear were still in South Africa, where she was training before the Olympics.

GMTV, Blue Peter and a host of national and regional news programmes have also welcomed Kelly into their studios.

Before her triumphant return from Athens the same news teams were interviewing her mother at home in Hildenborough, Kent.

When asked how her life has changed, Kelly said: "My mum's been a bit of a media star!

I presume things will stop or slow down soon, I just have to deal with it when it happens
Kelly Holmes on her sudden stardom

"Everybody knows me which is really strange, but to me I'm still someone's daughter or their cousin, I'm still Kelly."

While visiting her old school - Hugh Christie Technical College in Tonbridge - she was told that when the school is rebuilt over the next two years the new sports hall will be named after her.

Not all of the attention has been welcome with Kelly describing attempts to engineer a reconciliation by her estranged father Derrick, who has had no contact with her since she was in her teens, as "quite sad".

But she says many of the changes in her life have been fun.

Kelly Holmes draped in a UK flag
Kelly has been one of the UK's top athletes for a decade

"Normally I'll be training and then watching the television all day," Kelly says.

"Now I'm being driven all over the country to appear on television."

After she appeared on Parkinson, fellow guest Tom Cruise invited her to the premiere of his new film Collateral.

But she had to decline the offer, saying after travelling from Kent to London she was too tired.

"I'm the girl who turned down Tom Cruise," she admits with a smile.

"I presume things will stop or slow down soon, I just have to deal with it when it happens."

Kelly Holmes may indeed find the attention from fans, media and passers-by on the street lessens in time.

But winning two golds, a feat last achieved by Albert Hill in Antwerp in 1920, has written her name in the history books, and that, even when the media attention fades, will live with her forever.

Holmes given hero's welcome
01 Sep 04  |  Kent
Holmes' place in history
29 Aug 04  |  Athletics
Golden double for Holmes
28 Aug 04  |  Athletics


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