With the Opening Ceremony just hours away, Britain's athletes are preparing to go for gold. No one knows what they're going through better than Dame Kelly Holmes. Here she talks about the focus, commitment and steely determination that she used to win double gold in Athens in 2004. Let's hope Team GB's athletes can emulate her success in the weeks ahead.
Just six months after she started running, Kelly Holmes became the English Schools Champion over 1500m. After a short stint in the Army, she left and embarked on her athletics career aged 22. Kelly was thrown into the limelight when she broke the British 1500m record at the World Championships in Stuttgart in 1993.
For years afterwards she was plagued by injury, which prevented her from performing at her best. It wasn’t until the 2004 Games in Athens that Kelly caused a real storm and showed the nation what she was made of, winning gold medals in both the 800m and 1500m. Further injury prompted Kelly’s retirement from athletics in 2005, when she created her mentoring company Double Gold Enterprises. She hopes that sharing her experiences will help the next generation of middle-distance athletes through the struggles and challenges of becoming an international athlete.
After watching Seb Coe win the gold medal in the 1500m at the 1984 Olympics, I decided I was going to become an Olympic Champion. The Los Angeles Olympics was a fantastic Games for British athletes. You get inspired by lots of things and that Games definitely inspired me as a youngster.
I love the Olympics because it opens people’s eyes to so many different sports. The swimmer Keri-Anne Payne is a great athlete and I really hope she does well. Similarly I hope Tom Daley can continue to mature and do well under pressure.
I always knew I was capable of achieving great things at the Athens Olympics. I had great consistency of training and a brilliant team around me. I knew I was in good shape and I thought I could get a medal. But not for one minute did I think I’d win two.
Going into the Games, I was a bit under the radar, which was perfect for me because I could just train and get on with it. Paula Radcliffe was the person everyone expected to get a gold medal and so all the expectations were on her.
Everything changed when I won the 800m. I saw my face on the front page of a newspaper and everyone knew my name and was tooting in the street. It was crazy.
After winning the 800m gold medal, my head was all over the place. Running in the 1500m heats was the hardest day of the Olympics. I had to forget I’d already won the first medal and get myself back in the zone. The only person that could mess it up was myself.
Winning the 1500m felt like a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I’d already won one gold in the 800m but winning gold in the 1500m was something I’d dreamt of doing since I was 14. Suddenly it felt like this huge weight had been lifted and I was exactly where I wanted to be.
I didn’t really have a single person who helped me and taught me how to cope with the ups and downs of the sport. Your coach has a big influence on your journey but they’ve rarely made the same journey. That’s why I like to pass on every single aspect of what I’ve learnt to younger athletes.
My athletes learn how to stay focused and cope with pressure. The programme is about them fulfilling their ambitions and their absolute ability. I know what it’s taken for these girls to get where they are; I’m so proud of them. If I saw one of them at the Games that would be amazing.
No one will ever know what I went through to win those two gold medals. I’m absolutely proud of myself. At the Olympics, not much time splits all the best people. It all boils down to who wants it the most, and what’s in your heart.
To be an Olympic Champion you have to be very committed and focused, even if that sometimes means letting people down. You’ve got to be absolutely determined but also learn from your mistakes and move forward. Each year you change slightly because you have more knowledge than the year before.
I used to train six days a week, twice a day, sometimes three times a day. Going into a race, it’s important to maintain the right mental and physical state. The day of the competition should just be about the actual performance; all the tactical preparation should be done before the race so you can just go and focus on what you need to do.
As a team ambassador for the London Olympics my role is to help keep the younger team members grounded and remind them that it’s just another competition.
Coach: Margo Jennings
Club: Ealing, Southall and Middlesex
2005 - Honoured with a Damehood by the Queen; Winner of the Laureus World Sports Woman of the Year Award
2004 - Athens Olympics, 800m gold, 1500m gold; BBC Sport Personality of the year
2003 - World Championships, 800m silver; World Indoor Championships, 1500m silver
2002 - Commonwealth Games, 1500m gold; European Championships, 800m bronze
2000 - Olympic Games, 800m bronze
1998 - Commonwealth Games, 1500m silver
1996 - Atlanta Olympics, fourth in the 800m
1995 - World Championships, 1500m silver, 800m bronze
1994 - Gold Commonwealth Games, 1500m gold; European Championships, 1500m silver
Created by Dame Kelly Holmes, Aviva has proudly sponsored the 'On Camp with Kelly' mentoring and education programme since 2004. To find out more visit oncampwithkelly.co.uk or search Aviva Athletics on Facebook