Athletics: Kelly speeds away from the days of little respect

The conqueror of Athens on top of the world

It was only 12 months ago that Kelly Holmes stood by the side of the Stade Louis II here on the Côte d'Azur bemoaning her apparent lot as the unappreciated diamond of British athletics. "People are kicking me in the teeth," she complained, after running in the inaugural IAAF World Athletics Finals, having been widely accused of hanging on to the protective coat-tails of Maria Mutola on the way to her World Championship 800m silver medal in Paris the previous month. "Whatever I do is not good enough. No one gives me the respect I deserve."

It was only 12 months ago that Kelly Holmes stood by the side of the Stade Louis II here on the Côte d'Azur bemoaning her apparent lot as the unappreciated diamond of British athletics. "People are kicking me in the teeth," she complained, after running in the inaugural IAAF World Athletics Finals, having been widely accused of hanging on to the protective coat-tails of Maria Mutola on the way to her World Championship 800m silver medal in Paris the previous month. "Whatever I do is not good enough. No one gives me the respect I deserve."

Twelve months, two Olympic gold medals, one Parkinson appearance and a Hello! spread later, there is no end, it seems, to the adulation heaped on the sculpted shoulders of the Kentish woman. There is still a parade of Trafalgar Square to come, plus a marathon round of end-of-year award ceremonies. And yet the recently crowned Olympic 800m and 1500m champion is not content to bask in the afterglow of her hard-won Athens success.

In the Riviera sunshine yesterday the one-time army judo champion fought her way to victory in the 1500m on the opening day of this year's World Athletics Finals, the weekend meeting that brings down the curtain on the inter-national track-and-field season. Unlike last Sunday in Berlin, when she left herself with too much ground to make up in the final 100m and was unable to overhaul Tatyana Tomashova, the Russian who took the silver medal behind her in the metric mile in Athens, Holmes kept within striking distance of her rivals before swooping from third place to first down the home straight.

She crossed the line in 4min 04.55sec, 0.63sec ahead of Tomashova, with her British team-mate Hayley Tullett 11th in 4:08.70. In the process, Holmes claimed a $30,000 (£16,750) prize and guaranteed herself top place in the end-of-season world merit rankings in her event. "With me, it's all about mind-set," she confided. "Last week I had no goals. This time I wanted to be top of the world rankings. That's something I've never done before.

"I've got the Great North Mile in Newcastle next Saturday, and it'll be great to run on home ground, but it's brilliant to finish my track season on a high like this." If the Kent woman is finished on the track for 2004, that is.

Holmes may yet decide to line up for the 800m this afternoon, if her 34-year-old mind and body feel up to the task when she gets out of bed this morning. "Physically and psychologically, I am wiped out," she confessed. "It's been my longest-ever season, and the Olympics took a lot out of me. It was a tough schedule: six races in nine days."

One distinguished gentleman sitting watching from the sparsely populated stands of the Stade Louis II could certainly sympathise. Sir Roger Bannister might have received a surfeit of adulation for his sub-four-minute mile at Iffley Road in 1954, but he never won one Olympic middle-distance medal, let alone two golds. He finished fourth in the 1500m final in Helsinki in 1952, blaming the last-minute introduction of a semi-final round for his failure to make the podium. His body simply could not withstand the rigours of three races in three days, he lamented at the time.

Sir Roger will receive his latest honour tonight, during the course of the World Athletics Gala that follows the conclusion of these finals. Whether Holmes will join him on stage in the Grimaldi Forum remains to be seen. She has been shortlisted as one of five contenders for the Female World Athlete of the Year Award, though the smart money in the casino capital of Europe favours the Russian pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbay-eva, with the Briton in pole position for the consolation prize, the Performance of the Year trophy.

It is just as well that Yulia Nesterenko is out of contention for both awards. It was revealed last week that the Belarussian sprinter, who raised more than a few eyebrows with her victory in the women's 100m in Athens, tested positive for the anabolic steroid clenbuterol at a meeting in the Polish town of Biala Podlaska in May 2002. She escaped any sanctions because her A sample was tested at a Warsaw laboratory that was not accredited by the International Olympic Committee, and because her B sample was never analysed.

Nesterenko, who was ranked 113th in the world last year, was not the only woman who took a quantum leap on to the top step of the Olympic podium last month. Fani Halkia was not fast enough to qualify to compete in the 400m hurdles at the World Championships in Paris last year, yet she struck Olympic gold in emphatic style on home ground, attributing her stunning success, and her staggering improvement, to "the power of the Greek soul".

In Monaco yesterday the former television journalist was back among the ranks of the also-hurdled, running out of Greek power in the home straight. Halkia could only finish fourth in a race won by Sanda Glover, who missed the selection cut for Athens after finishing fourth in the US Olympic trials. Unfortunately, from a British perspective, there were no surprises from Abi Oyepitan, who finished fourth in the 200m in 23.09sec, or Jade Johnson, who was fifth in the long jump with 6.46m. Kathy Butler did lead for three-and-a-half laps of the 5,000m, but faded to eighth place, clocking 15:46.72.

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

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?