Hildenborough: Elation in Holmes' home village where 'nothing happens'

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The Independent Online

She may have been showered in gold and glory, but when Kelly Holmes slips away from the bright lights of Athens tonight she will return to a celebration at her local Beefeater pub.

She may have been showered in gold and glory, but when Kelly Holmes slips away from the bright lights of Athens tonight she will return to a celebration at her local Beefeater pub.

The athlete, estimated to be worth £25m in sponsorship deals after her two Olympic gold wins, is more likely to be dining on breaded mushrooms than beluga caviar as she returns home to Hildenborough.

"We will be providing a buffet for about 100 people and there will be a DJ. Everyone is absolutely overjoyed at her success," explained Julian Tann, the manager of Hilden Manor.

Yesterday, residents of the quaint village on the outskirts of Tunbridge expressed their delight. "Nothing ever happens here," explained Bob Cates, 58. "But it has now."

Local Susan Thomas said: "She's just so lovely, that's why we're all so happy for her."

Kelly, 34, slipped away quietly from her family's Kent home before the Olympics but her wins in the 800m and 1500m ensure she will return to a fanfare.

The semi-detached house she shares with her mum Pam Thomson, 52, has been decked out with flags and Union Jack bunting by neighbours along with a sign which read "Well done Kelly".

Local councillors have organised an open-top bus to parade the former army sergeant from her home, through the high street, to a reception at Tonbridge Castle on Wednesday. It may even be a double celebration after civic leaders discovered to their added glee that Ian Wynne, who won a bronze medal in the men's K1 500m kayaking final on Saturday, is a former pupil of Hugh Christie secondary school.

Former mayor Michael Dobson said: "I fully expect it will be a huge gathering. I know Kelly wants to meet as many people as possible." In 2000, Mr Dobson awarded Kelly the freedom of the borough for her previous successes.

For years the people of Hildenborough have closely followed the sporting highs and lows of Kelly, who is the first Briton in 84 years to win both Olympic middle distance events.

Her mum said yesterday: "It's Kelly's turn now. So many times before she's watched other athletes come home with the gold. Finally she's done it."

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