Dame Kelly Holmes is best known for winning two gold medals (in the womens’ 800 metres and 1500 metres events) at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. But long before that, she spent her summer holidays at Butlins – which is where she first met future Olympic roommate Tessa Sanderson. In 2008, she set up the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust to support and encourage disadvantaged young people in sport and life.
Do you have fond memories of Butlins?
Yes, I’ve been to Skegness, Minehead and Bognor Regis. From when I was about 10 to 14, we went to Butlins every year for our summer holiday. The whole family came: me, my mum, my step-dad, my younger brothers and my nan and granddad. We all loved it.
What did you get up to at Butlins?
Being a sporty kid, I really enjoyed all the organised competitions and events. My parents could go off and do their thing, knowing I was being well looked after. After the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, Tessa Sanderson came to Butlins to show off her gold medal. She had a car with a long javelin down the side of it and I had my photo taken with her. She was such an inspiration. Then 12 years later, we ended up sharing a room together at the Olympics in Atlanta – and two years ago, I was bridesmaid at her wedding!
When did you first realise you may have the talent to win Olympic gold?
At my school sports day when I was 12. I beat all the girls who were two years above me in the 800 metres! I sprinted the first lap, and they thought I was going to slow down – but I just kept going.
What are your career highlights?
I’ve fulfilled two of my biggest dreams so far: I achieved my ambition of being a Physical Training Instructor in the British Army by the age of 21. And obviously, the other was winning my Olympic golds. I’m very proud of myself for having the ability to focus on something, no matter what the barriers are.
Are you excited about the London Olympics?
Without a doubt! It gives people something to believe in. It creates role models and it’s where heroes are born. It has to inspire a new generation to be interested in sport.
How do you think Team GB will do?
As an ambassador for Team GB I know everyone expects a similar result as in Beijing, where we came fourth. There’s never been so much funding going into sport as there is now and of course we hope for big successes.
Do you really think we can do it
Yes, I hope so. After all, we’ve got the home crowd. It can go one of two ways: either there’ll be too much pressure and expectation, or people will rise to the challenge. Hopefully, it’ll be the latter!
The Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust: creating life chances for disadvantaged young people through mentoring from Olympic, Paralympic and World Champions. dkhlegacytrust.org, @dkhlegacytrust
Dame Kelly offers her top tips for getting young people into sport
- Find the opportunities. Having the opportunity to get involved is vital. Once young people are taking part in sport, they’ll carry on if they get some fulfilment from it.
- Try something new. We all have things we’re not good at or don’t enjoy. But kids only discover the things they end up loving if they’re not afraid to give them a go.
- Be encouraged. Positivity from parents and coaches is so important. If adults are energetic and enthused, it makes children feel they’re good at something.
- Appreciate the benefits. Sport helps children meet lots of people from all kinds of backgrounds. It teaches them to communicate and equips them with life skills.
- Find a club. Once your child has found a sport they like, a local club is the best place to go if they want to do it regularly and improve.