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August 9, 2012
Stood on the podium in 2005, Kelly Holmes wondered where all the people were. Thinking to herself, “oh my gosh, no one is interested,” it was a moment that the two times Olympic Gold medallist would never forget.
Unlike her medal winning ceremonies at Athens in 2004 when she won Gold in both the 1500m and 800m, where she had believed a medal was possible and was anointed as a British hero, there was no guarantee of glory on this particular world stage. It was in Trafalgar Square, at the end of the Olympic bidding process, before the opening of the envelope that would seal the fate of the 2012 Olympic Games, and everyone thought Paris, on their third bid for the Games, was more or less a done deal:
“In the back of your mind it was almost like, ‘oh [LOCOG] are bound to feel sorry for them.’ But the rest is history: London has hosted what is generally agreed to be an incredibly successful Games, with Britain so far taking an unexpected third position in the medals table behind superpowers America and China, which goes to show how far the nation has come in terms of supporting and encouraging British sporting success in the run up to London 2012.
And Dame Kelly Holmes is one of the sporting stars who has been working behind the scenes towards this national achievement. As one of the Ambassadors for Team GB, she has worked closely with some of the athletes performing in this year’s Games. The role involves visiting and interacting with teams across different disciplines, and inspiring them to fulfil their own sporting dreams. “For about 75 per cent of the team”, Holmes says, “it’s the first time they have taken part in an Olympic Games. You can imagine how overwhelming that is going to be.”
It is work she continues with her own mentoring programme, On Camp with Kelly, which allows her to work with middle distance runners over a longer period with the aim of keeping them in the sport and helping them make the transition from junior to senior. One of her mentors to watch at this year’s Games is Hannah England who won silver at the 1500m World Championships in Daegu last year, who is pipped for a middle distance medal at London 2012.
It will be a proud moment for Holmes, that will no doubt bring back memories of her own medal wins in Athens, described by Holmes as the “pinnacle of her career,” rising from self-confessed humble beginnings as a “council girl” whose “always wanted to fight to better themselves,” she’s now in a position where she can help other young people from disadvantaged backgrounds fulfil their ambitions in both the UK and abroad, with the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust , and as a Laureus Ambassador, travelling to South Africa to work on a Laureus programme, of which she says, “the hope you bring to those young people who get the opportunity for change is remarkable.”
It is certain that she has witnessed a sea change in the world of sport in the years since she waited nervously on stage, waiting for the people to come “out of the building like little ants filling up Trafalgar Square” to witness the making of another great moment in Olympic history.