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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 August, 2004, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Racing just for fun
By Phil Gordos
BBC Sport in Athens

PRESSURE OFF
Britain's Kelly Holmes ponders her achievements in Athens

Kelly Holmes is Britain's newest sporting heroine but the double Olympic champion does not care if she wins another race.

The 34-year-old former army sergeant has suffered a string of setbacks in her long and distinguished career.

Now, after capturing the 800m and 1500m titles in Athens, she is ready to enjoy herself again after revealing racing became just a little too stressful.

"Whatever happens now doesn't really matter, I will always be an Olympic champion," said Holmes.

"I could come last and I would enjoy it. That's what's going to be so nice."

Holmes admits she has lost count of the number of times she thought about quitting.

Yet she always kept going, because even when she reached her lowest ebb, her goal of becoming an Olympic champion just about kept her competitive spark alive.

"The last two years made me an emotional wreck," said Holmes.

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
1500m - GOLD MEDAL
"It was so depressing at one stage that I just couldn't cope with it anymore.

"But always burning inside me was the fact that I hadn't achieved my dream. That's what made me train.

"Last year was very tough for me, I'd got my motivation back for training then I got injured. Then it was a struggle. But I knew it was my last Olympics.

"Every time I thought about being on the podium and winning an Olympic gold medal I would cry.

"Wherever I was, I could be sitting on the bus, driving somewhere, or sitting with my family, I would think about my dream and well up. Now I can cry big time."

Holmes only decided at the last moment to run the 800m as well as the 1500m in Athens.

But she upset the form book by winning the shorter discipline, out-sprinting long-time rival Maria Mutola and holding off the double challenge of Hasna Benhassi and Jolanda Ceplak.

If she thought that would ease the pressure on her, however, Holmes was wrong.

Expectations quickly rose as people began tipping her to become the first Briton - male or female - to complete the middle-distance double since Albert Hill in 1920.

The 34-year-old said she found it hard to lift herself after her 800m success, almost breaking down in tears in between rounds of the 1500m.

I don't think there would be enough words to say how proud I am of myself and how ecstatic I am
Double Olympic champion
Kelly Holmes
But she managed to keep her emotions in check just long enough to write herself into the record books.

"A couple of days ago I was so tired I wanted it all to finish," she said.

"But I thought to myself that I was never going to be in the position again.

"I'm still in disbelief that I achieved more than anything I could have dreamed of.

"It still hasn't hit home that I've got two medals.

"It feels as though someone else jumped in my body and helped me along the way.

"I don't think there would be enough words to say how proud I am of myself and how ecstatic I am."

After all she has gone through, few would be surprised if Holmes chose now to bring the curtain down on her career. But she has other ideas.

"I don't plan on retiring," she said. "I'm in the form of my life and I don't think I'll ever be in this form again.

"I'm not past my sell-by date, so why give up?

"Why give in when I'm still running well? Why not capitalise on what I've done and enjoy it?"





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