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Last Updated: Friday, 31 December, 2004, 00:01 GMT
Dame Kelly - an annus mirabilis
Kelly Holmes has waited a long time for the titles and trophies she won this year - but it was worth the wait.

The 34-year-old middle-distance runner won an amazing Olympic double with two gold medals, and has been made a Dame in the New Year Honours List.

"I'm extremely honoured. I can't believe how it turned out for me after all the low years I had and now I am as happy as I could ever be.

"This year will be one I will never forget as long as live," said Holmes.

The 34-year-old enjoyed a dazzling six days at the Athens Olympics when she won both the 800m and 1500m titles.

"This has been an extraordinary year for me, fulfilling my lifetime dreams of becoming Olympic champion - not just once but twice," added the BBC Sports Personality of the Year winner.

Of her latest honour, she said it was amazing that "a girl brought up in a humble council house could be made Dame Kelly Holmes".

Despite her modesty, such awards and acclaim are worthy reward for a rollercoaster ride of a career on the track.

Having won the English Schools 1500m title, Holmes turned her back on athletics at the age of 18, opting instead for a life in the army.

It took the encouragement of an army coach to rekindle the fire of competition in the aspiring athlete, who admits to having been "army barmy" at the time.

She returned to the track in 1992, making an impact almost immediately.

Within 12 months she was the 800m national champion, adding the 1500m title to her collection in 1994.

HOLMES' RISE TO STARDOM
Born: 19/4/1970
1993: Wins AAA and UK titles
1994: European 800m silver; Commonwealth 800m gold
1995: World Championship 800m bronze
1996: Suffers stress fracture at Atlanta Olympics
1997: Suffers Achilles injury for World Championships
1998: Commonwealth 800m silver
2000: Olympic 800m bronze
2001: Illness scuppers worlds
2002: Commonwealth 1500 gold; European 800m bronze
2003: World Championship 800m silver
2004: Double Olympic gold - 1500m/800m

However, her 10-year journey from national to Olympic champion has been tortuous at times.

Holmes had to contend with a host of injuries that affected her form and afflicted her Olympic hopes.

At Atlanta in 1996, she finished outside the medals in fourth place while running the 800m with a stress fracture. She spent the next seven weeks in plaster.

At the Sydney Games she went one better, picking up bronze in the 800m, a result made all the more impressive by the fact her preparation was limited to just six weeks of training after being laid low by a virus.

And her previous visit to Athens had ended in disaster on the track.

A ruptured Achilles tendon and torn calf muscle in the 1500m heats at the 1997 World Championships destroyed her hopes of a first major title.

It is impossible to guard against such unknowns, but on her return to the Greek capital seven years later, Holmes ensured that, injury permitting, she would be in the best shape of her life.

Two years prior to the Olympics she based herself in South Africa and spent time training with Mozambique's Maria Mutola, the world's premier 800m runner.

The hours on the track with Mutola inspired her to aspire to greater heights, and the months they spent apart before the Olympics helped Holmes realise she could turn the tables on her former training partner, as she proved in Athens.

A home-straight burst helped the Briton secure the narrowest of wins in the 800m, with Mutola trailing in fourth.

Six days later, imbued by the confidence that victory brings, she surged to gold in the 1500m having bided her time towards the back of the field until the bell.

Her decision to go for the double was a last-minute one, but as the clock ticks on through the autumn of her career, the laurels and the memories will last a lifetime.




SEE ALSO
Holmes starts 2005 with GB events
21 Dec 04 |  Athletics
Britain boosted by Holmes double
20 Dec 04 |  Athletics
Holmes takes top BBC Sport award
12 Dec 04 |  Sports Personality
Download Kelly Holmes wallpaper
13 Dec 04 |  Sport Homepage
Holmes says her hunger is waning
10 Nov 04 |  Athletics
Holmes wins two further honours
23 Oct 04 |  Athletics
Holmes romps to victory
25 Sep 04 |  Athletics
Holmes wins top award
19 Sep 04 |  Athletics
Holmes in 1500m triumph
18 Sep 04 |  Athletics
Holmes' place in history
29 Aug 04 |  Athletics


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