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Last Updated: Monday, 23 August, 2004, 22:23 GMT 23:23 UK
Kelly's greatest triumph
By Andrew Fraser
BBC Sport in Athens

Kelly Holmes
It was no wonder Kelly Holmes took an age to complete her lap of honour after clinching Britain's seventh gold medal of the Games in a thrilling 800m final.

Even once it was hanging safely round her neck, the 34-year-old could not quite believe she was the Olympic champion.

Just 24 hours earlier British morale had taken a battering as Paula Radcliffe's marathon meltdown sent shockwaves through the team.

But Sobering Sunday became Magic Monday as Holmes reignited the gold rush.

On the very same track that she left in tears in 1997 - an Achilles tendon injury ending her hopes in a 1500m competition she was tipped to win - the former army officer achieved her greatest triumph.

She wiped away years of personal disappointment in the process with a superb charge to the line.

"We have BBC television pictures in the Olympic village, and let's just say there was a lot of noise in the British section," one team official told the BBC Sport website.

When Holmes said her heart went out to Radcliffe, you knew how sincerely she meant it.

After finishing fourth at the Atlanta Games in 1996, Holmes was told she had run with a stress fracture of her leg and spent seven weeks in plaster.

The following year she was favourite to take world championships gold in Athens but left the track in tears after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon and a torn calf muscle.

And in Sydney in 2000 her lack of training time after yet another injury let her down as she led into the final straight before fading to take bronze.

KELLY'S CLOSE SHAVES
1995 World Ch'ship:
800m - bronze medal
1500m - silver medal
1996 Olympics:
800m - fourth
1997 World Ch'ship:
1500m - pulls out injured
1998 C'wealth Games:
1500m - silver medal
1999 World Ch'ship:
800m - semi-finals
2000 Olympics:
800m - bronze medal
2001 World Ch'ship:
800m - sixth place
2003 World Ch'ship:
800m - silver medal

2004 Olympics:
800m - GOLD MEDAL
This time it was her training partner and close friend Maria Mutola who could not handle the pace, the defending champion finishing out of the medals in fourth.

"In 1997 I only spent about 14 hours in Athens, but I didn't really think about that," said Holmes.

"I've been going for my dream all the time and I've never given up because I really believed I could eventually get a title.

"There have been so many downs, really big ones, and I am the happiest I have ever been."

But Holmes is not done yet.

Having decided to enter the 800m just a day before the heats got under way, the former army sergeant is now preparing to go for a golden double in the 1500m.

A comparatively weak field stands between her and a feat that proved beyond British middle distance greats Sebastian Coe, Steve Cram and Steve Ovett.

At last year's world championships, where she took silver, Holmes never really looked like she believed she could beat Mutola.

But she hinted that the five months they spent training apart, as Holmes focused on the 1500m, had toughened her up for Athens.

"Maria has been the number one athlete in the world for years and training with her a while ago was beneficial for both of us," said Holmes.

"We knew each other's strengths and weaknesses and I knew all I could rely on for this championship was my strength.

"I felt I got that from the training I'd been doing in the 1500m."

And, as the reality of what she had done began to sink in, there was one person Holmes wanted to thank above all others - her physiotherapist Alison Rose.

"I can't thank her enough for her dedication to me. I knew that if I could just get one year without any problems that I could bring something out.

"I thought my time was going to run out."





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