Golden potential: Kelly Holmes shapes running's next generation

Discover how the double gold Olympian is inspiring the next generation of athletes - and pick up a six-step training model to try at home

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Last week we were lucky enough to meet Dame Kelly Holmes and six of her On Camp with Kelly protégés - amongst them the 2011 World Championship 1,500m silver medallist Hannah England and 800m semi-finalist Emma Jackson.

Radiating confidence, unfailingly articulate and looking more like Britain's Next Top Model contestants than athletes used to hard work and sweat, these six are the next generation of British sporting talent. Their achievements - on and off the track - are thanks in no small part to the mentoring of the Dame herself.

It's worth remembering that Kelly was an army PT instructor before she became a full-time athlete - it's a strict, no-nonsense scheme, but Dame Kelly is clearly absolutely loyal to her girls.  

A long term legacy

No-one could forget Kelly Holmes's amazing double gold exploits at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

But I discovered this week just how much more there is to Kelly's legacy than a cupboard full of silverware. Before heading to Athens, Kelly had already lined up a training camp in South Africa later that summer, designed to help eight young female runners on their journey to senior sport.

Fast-forward almost eight years and now 59 young athletes are OCWK members - 45 female and 14 male. They attend a range of workshops and training days designed to help them cope with the wide range of challenges thrown at aspiring athletes -everything from nutrition advice to media training to aqua jogging classes.

In an inspiring press conference RW learnt how these young women, along with 53 other OCWK members, are nurtured to their sporting potential using a successful six-step mentoring programme. (Check back later this week to discover how to apply this programme to your own training!)

After seeing the scheme's amazing results we were so jealous of the On Camp With Kelly athletes, so it was tough to read research revealing how tough it is for young athletes to cut it at senior level without initiatives like OCWK - and just how high the drop-out rate is.  

Fifteen OCWK athletes who joined in the period 2004-2006 were paired with a 'control' athlete of similar age and rankings, and their results were compared over an eight-year period. The statistic making the most compelling case for the project is that a staggering nine of the 15 non-OCWK athletes failed to record performances in the 800m or 1,500m in the 2011 athletics season, despite showing great potential.

It seems few of our brightest talents can make it through the trials and tribulations of an athletics career without an experienced mentor and support system.

One of the day's stories that touched me most came from 1,500m runner Stacey Smith. When she lost her love of running aged 16 and stopped competing, she received a hand written letter from Kelly Holmes reminding her of her raw talent and inviting her to an OCWK selection day. Now the gold England Under 23 champion loves nothing more than competing.

Kelly has developed a dream finishing school for middle-distance athletics. These young athletes could have all too easily given up on their dreams without this support. With the medal cabinet for OCWK athletes bulging, perhaps this is a model we should be looking at across more disciplines if we want to get the best out of British sporting talent.


Discover how 1,500m World Championship silver medallist Hannah England is keeping a cool head as London 2012 approaches, plus check back later this week to discover the successful six-step mentoring programme and our interview with the Dame herself.

'On Camp with Kelly', supported by Aviva since 2004, is Dame Kelly Holmes' mentoring and education initiative for talented young middle distance athletes. For more info visit www.oncampwithkelly.co.uk

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Editor's Choice, Olympics, London 2012, Kelly Holmes, Hannah England
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Posted: 13/01/2013 at 18:26

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