Athletics: Clitheroe ready at last to escape Holmes' shadow

Britain's number one 1500m runner of 2005 just happened to be in Kelly Holmes country when the top-ranked metric miler of 2004 announced she would be hanging up her spikes - and swapping them for ice-skates, initially, at any rate. There was a certain irony to it. After all, Helen Clitheroe has been out of synch with the retiring dame of the track for some time now.

Last year, when Holmes was busy working her way through her annus mirabilis, Mrs Clitheroe was enduring an annus that was just a plain horrible pain in the backside. Struggling to get back to her sharpest racing form after overcoming a long-term pelvic problem, the Preston Harrier was in tears after narrowly failing to secure an automatic qualifying place at the British Olympic trials in Manchester. She was inconsolable again after chasing the Olympic qualifying time at Crystal Palace and falling over in mid-race.

Sixteen months on, having missed out on Athens and a role in the drama that produced gold medals for Holmes in the 800m as well as the 1500m, Clitheroe is in Potchefstroom, the South African university town her now-former British team-mate has long used as her training base - preparing to challenge for the Commonwealth 1500m crown that Holmes will not defend in Melbourne next March. "Yes, it is the same place," Clitheroe said. "If it's good enough for Kelly Holmes, it's good enough for me.

"I wasn't totally surprised to hear Kelly had retired. I thought she might do the Commonwealths for a last bow, but she has nothing to prove to anyone. She has been an inspiration to me, especially as I came on to the international scene late. She has proved that age needn't be a problem. I remember racing against her for the first time and being totally star-struck.

"It is one less person to worry about, in terms of the Commonwealth Games, but I would still have liked to have competed against her, because I feel I'm getting back into good shape. In 2002, when I was running well, I felt I was getting closer to her. I would have liked to have seen how I fared against her, but I wish her a happy retirement."

Back in 2002, Clitheroe led at the bell in the Commonwealth 1500m final in Manchester and finished with the bronze medal, behind Holmes and Hayley Tullett. She also reduced her personal best that summer to a mightily impressive 4min 1.10sec. Then came pelvic injury in 2003 and heartache in 2004, but this year - at 31, and under the guidance of John Nuttall, the Commonwealth 5,000m bronze medallist of 1994 - the former lifeguard has managed to get back into the swim of things.

In March she finished fourth in the 1500m at the European Indoor Championships in Madrid (and was denied a deserved bronze by the staggering decision not to disqualify Hind Dehiba of France, who blatantly impeded her as she was about to launch her attack for the line off the final bend). In August she reached the 1500m final at the World Championships in Helsinki, taking 10th place - just behind Carmen Douma-Hussar of Canada, the only athlete ahead of her in the Commonwealth rankings for 2005.

By the time the Commonwealth Games of 2006 come round, just three months from now, Clitheroe will be one of the leading contenders for Dame Kelly's 1500m crown. She might even have some support from the non-defending champion. She is certainly owed some, having choked back the disappointment of missing the 2004 Olympics to cheer Holmes to victory from home.

"Obviously I wanted to be there myself, "Clitheroe reflected, "but watching Kelly's wins in Athens were the best moments of sport I have ever watched. I was dancing round my living room, like the rest of Britain, screaming at the television. I'm sure my neighbours think I'm mad."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most