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Kelly achieved her teenage dreams of becoming an Army PT instructor (only after qualifying as an HGV driver first) and an Olympic gold medalist, realising the latter in incredible style winning at 800m and 1500m distances. Since retirement she has been inspiringly open about her battle with mental ill-health throughout her career. She also founded the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust and has become an award-winning writer. She speaks about her personal and professional experiences looking at her achievements, overcoming setbacks, and the importance of physical and mental wellbeing in all aspects of life.
A double Olympic gold medallist, Kelly Holmes became only the second woman in history to claim the 800m and 1500m titles in the same Games. She has since gone on to be a mental health advocate, broadcaster and award-winning writer.
As a teenager, Kelly had only two dreams - to join the Army (ideally as a physical training instructor) and win an Olympic gold. After early schools-level success on the track she joined the Army, initially training as an HGV driver (because training for a PT role was full for that year). After almost ten years in the Army, rising to the rank of sergeant class 1 Physical Training Instructor, Kelly left the forces and returned to the running track full time.
It was the start of an impressive athletics career which, despite frequent injuries, saw Kelly amass seven Gold, eight Silver and four Bronze medals at Olympic, Commonwealth and European levels. In particular she earned the nation’s admiration with her remarkable achievement in 2004 in Athens, the first British athlete in over 80 years to win a double-gold on the track and which also saw her named BBC Sports Personality of the Year and European Athlete of the Year.
Despite achieving incredible things in her sport, in particular some remarkable comebacks, privately Kelly suffered from serious mental health problems. Her frequent physical injuries also had a psychological effect culminating in a breakdown in the run up the World Championships before her Olympic triumph. It was after retirement that she opened up, one of the first public figures to do so, about her battle with depression, suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Kelly has since became a champion for greater awareness and support in all areas of life.
Alongside a personal look at mental health, Kelly also looks at what individuals and organisations need to do to help themselves and each other. She also looks at the ups and downs of her career on and off the track, at what kept her going, and with humour and insight considers what it takes to achieve your goals. Drawing on her time with the Army as well as her athletics career she looks at effective team building, planning and preparation, as well as the importance of physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Awarded an MBE for her services to the Army, Kelly has more recently returned to the military after being appointed Honorary Colonel of the Royal Armoured Corps, the first time anyone has ever been awarded such an appointment. She has founded the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust to support both retired athletes and disadvantaged young people. She was an Ambassador for London 2012 and patron of several charities. She founded a multi-million pound programme for British women athletes, and even opened her own cafe in her home town in Kent. She hosts her own mental health-themed podcast, and is author of a clutch of books, including Black, White & Gold and Just Go For It!: 6 simple steps to achieve success, and Running Life: Mindset, fitness & nutrition for positive wellbeing, the latter being named a Telegraph Sports Book of the year.
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Though she's only five foot two Kelly's infectious laugh, her bright personality (and her love of the group selfie) could fill a room twice over. The lightness of her storytelling makes you have to remind yourself that she suffered set back after set back before winning her two gold medals. It's her strength in the face of failure that makes Kelly so empowering. You won't just feel a sense of awe, you'll want her to be your best friend too. JLA Agent Ella O'Kane
JLA Speakers Breakfast
Dame Kelly Holmes interview