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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 April, 2004, 07:37 GMT 08:37 UK
Going for Gold: Kelly Holmes
By Sarah Holt

HOLMES ADVANTAGE
Kelly Holmes
Full name: Kelly Holmes
Age: 33
Events: 1500m and 800m
Honours: Olympic 800m bronze (2000), World 800m silver (2003), bronze (1995), World 1500m silver (1995), European 1500m silver (1994), European 800m bronze (2002), Commonwealth 1500m gold (2002 & 1994), silver (1998) World Indoor 1500m silver (2003)
Coach: Margo Jennings

The loneliness of the distance runner is something Kelly Holmes is all too familiar with as she sits in her hotel room in Spain.

The world 800m silver medallist has spent the winter jumping between her training bases in South Africa and Valencia as she prepares for her third Olympic Games this summer.

Life on the athletics circuit means she has little time to return home to Kent but then Holmes' name has become synonymous with sacrifice, dedication and determination.

"I have to keep my head down and focus on the Olympics as the ultimate," Holmes told BBC Sport.

"You do miss your family and your friends but because I've only got a couple of years left in the sport I have to give 100% now.

"What I do has become a lonely existence but it means a lot to me to get my performances right.

"So if I'm away I just have to focus on trying to be the best athlete I can."

Holmes quit her career as a physical training sergeant in the Army to take up athletics 12 years ago.

She was immediately successful, becoming national champion over 800m in 1993 and adding the 1500m title one year later.

But the 33-year-old has never lived up to her potential as a string of ill-timed injuries have laid waste to her ambitions at the major championships.

KELLY'S INJURY JINX
Kelly Holmes has often grimaced her way through races
1996: Stress fracture saw her finish 4th in the Olympics
1997: Ruptured Achilles ruins her world title hopes
2000: A virus affects her Sydney Olympics but she takes 800m bronze
2001: Illness forces Holmes to have stomach surgery
2003: A calf injury upsets her world plans but she wins 800m silver

"Every single year I've said 'oh, if only I hadn't had that injury I'd have done even better'" Holmes said.

"The most important thing for me this year is that I stay on my feet. I plan to go to Athens at my best but that can only happen if everything goes right before then.

"Every training session has to mean something to me, every week that goes by injury-free means I've got another week under my belt.

"At this stage in my career there is nothing I can change technically but I know I can give myself an advantage if I can remain strong and competitive."

In the past Holmes' ambitious streak has seen her double up in the 800m and 1500m - this is no easy feat.

Turkey's Sureyya Ayhan, the world number one over 1500m, does not contest the shorter distance.

And Mozambique's 800m star, Maria Mutola, has no intention of upsetting her British training partner by adding an extra 700m to her race.

Holmes grabbed 1500m silver and 800m bronze at the 1995 World Championships but she has already ruled out speculating on double gold in Athens - well, almost.

"Right now my focus is the 1500m," Holmes said.

"I know I am capable of getting a medal in the 800m but my coach has told me that I can be a great 1500m runner and it has always been in my heart that I wanted to do well in that event too.

I could have retired because of injury but I would have known I gave up because of outside pressure not because I wanted to
Kelly Holmes
"It is tempting to double up but the 1500m comes after the 800m final in Athens so it's a hard decision to make.

"But who knows, in a month or two I could be changing my mind and changing events."

Holmes knows the importance of making the right decisions at this time in her career.

A burning desire to succeed has clearly fuelled Holmes' performances on the track when her injury-hit body has lagged behind.

But at 33 is Holmes ready to turn her back on the stresses and strains of athletics after Athens?

"I've always said that I will quit when I'm not good enough to be the athlete I want to be," she said.

"There were times when I could definitely have given up because of injuries but in my heart I would have always known I gave up because of an outside pressure not because I wanted to.

"So whatever happens in Athens it won't change my view that if I feel I'm good enough to carry on, I'll carry on.

"I'm grateful to have stayed this long but hopefully by the end of August I will have achieved my ultimate goal."


ROAD TO ATHENS
 


SEE ALSO
How to win Olympic gold
09 Mar 04  |  Olympics 2004



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