Kelly Holmes is one of the country’s best known and well liked sportswomen, thanks in part to her double gold win at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Sportsister chats to her about the upcoming Beijing games, getting more girls involved in sport and those gold medals.
Tell us about the mentoring camp you are running.
It’s a camp called On Camp with Kelly which I started over four years ago, and it’s an education and mentoring programme to help middle distance runners become well rounded athletes and learn about what it takes to become world class, which is more than just performing in a running club.
To be successful you need to have the knowledge of all the different influences that are going to affect you in your career. And I think even more so now with the younger generation that are trying to combine academic work with home life and sporting achievements.
I am on the fourth camp now, I have selected 15 girls for this and for the first time ever I have got 11 boys on board too to see how we can start working with the boys to raise their performances as they are currently really behind the girls in British athletics.
Are you still involved in the Girl’s Active campaign?
Yes, that campaign is aimed at teenage girls who drop out of sport, and 40% of girls do drop out of sport before the age of 18. I think that’s because of various reasons – body image, lack of self confidence, self consciousness, low self esteem, they don’t like the PE kit, don’t like the changing rooms….the list goes on. We are in the third year of promoting Girls Active now and this year we are going to be doing some conferences to raise the importance of getting more girls active in schools.
Your role as National School Sport Champion is government-backed. Do you think that the current government is doing enough when it comes to Physical Education?
I have been working with the government a little to try to improve sport in schools. Last year we announced £100 million to put into school sports, in a bid to increase PE from two hours a week to five hours a week.
But the real thing that we need to now focus on is sport for all, so instead of the traditional PE lesson they need to bring in other types of activities such as rock climbing, trampolining and martial arts. Then they have a variety of sports for everybody because not everyone likes the traditional team sports, or running and cross country, but most people do enjoy something.
Did you ever experience any negativity for being a female athlete?
No, not really. I think in the past when we’ve looked at women in sport the focus has been on unequal pay, like in tennis, and in athletics where women were getting less appearances, but I do think that is all changing now. I think it is much more equal and I think it is becoming more about women gaining confidence and not feeling that are not good at something because actually sport is about fun and it’s not always about performing.
What for you are the positive aspects of being involved in sport?
It is about confidence, and self esteem, learning new skills, making new friends and camaraderie. And that’s why I think sport is so important from a young age. And at an older age, again it is about helping you look good and feel good about yourself too. It gives you more energy, helps you feel more alert.
What do you love about athletics in particular?
There is a whole variety of disciplines and so there are not really any boundaries. It doesn’t matter what level of ability or disability, it doesn’t matter what age, height, weight or size you are, you can do it and that is what sport is about.
Athletics gives you such a varied type of events that you can choose one to suit you, and also easily shift from one discipline to another as running and jumping are the only core skills required. The only down side of athletics is that it is an individual sport.
Since you retired you have won a sack full of awards – 28 – we’ve counted! Which one of these has meant the most to you?
The BBC Sports Personality of The Year, because it is from the public so I was really honoured to win that. Also the Sportswomen Of The Year at the Laureus awards, because it was a very prestigious award, I mean being world sportswoman of the year – you can’t really get any higher up than that! I’ve been really honoured to receive all of the awards I have, because each one is special in its own way and special to the people who give you it. Even ones like the Golden TV moment of the year award, that was a really great one too.
If you could change anything in your career, what would it be and why?
I don’t think I would change anything now. Part of the reason why I do the On Camp With Kelly is because this is about teaching everybody how to go through their pathway and through their career the best way. Because my career was so littered with injuries and set backs I had to learn all these things along the way. And by doing that I wasn’t able to perform as well as I could have earlier on in my career.
But now because of that I have got so much to pass on to other people and even though it has been really hard and I have suffered some really big disappointments and emotional hurdles in terms of sport, I am glad that I went through that because I wouldn’t have the knowledge to do what I do now with my On Camp With Kelly.
Who are you looking forward to watching in Beijing this summer?
Tom Daley, the 13 year old diver. I met him at an interview last week and he was great. Also the cyclists are doing amazing at the moment, there is a girl called Shanaze Reade who is a BMXer but has just started doing track cycling, she’s only 19, and a very talented girl. And just generally watching the games because I am normally taking part so it will be really nice to just watch without the pressures of competing.
What effect do you think London hosting the Olympics in 2012 will have on our country’s athletes?
I think it is going to have a very positive affect by giving people direction. And I think it is going to really help get more financial funding into sport in this country which is needed.
I think also culturally, and in terms of benefits for the country such as the business that is being generated for small businesses and the area of east London being regenerated. It’s the biggest sporting event in the world and we are having it in our country, how good is that?
And finally, where do you keep your Olympic gold medals?
I keep them very safe! Sometimes they travel around with me when I am visiting schools but other than that they are kept in a very safe place!
Louise Hudson, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine
Dame Kelly Holmes is mentoring up and coming athletes on her ‘On Camp with Kelly’ scheme supported by Norwich Union. For more information visit – www.joinourteam.com/damekellyholmes
Look out for interviews with two of Britain’s Olympic medal hopefuls – Kelly Sotherton and Jessica Ennis – coming soon on Sportsister.