James Lawton: For Holmes, a place among the Olympic greats. For Radcliffe, an early flight home

Kelly Holmes' astounding surge through the 28th Olympics reached a stunning climax here last night when she ran into history and claimed a golden double. The 34-year-old Kent woman defied all the laws of probability when she added the 1500m title to her earlier utterly unexpected triumph in the 800m.

Kelly Holmes' astounding surge through the 28th Olympics reached a stunning climax here last night when she ran into history and claimed a golden double. The 34-year-old Kent woman defied all the laws of probability when she added the 1500m title to her earlier utterly unexpected triumph in the 800m.

But this, coming so long after she had been assigned to the nearly status of silver and bronze, was merely the detail of her defeat of the 29-year-old favourite, Russia's Tatyana Tomashova, and of the Romanian Maria Cioncan, who is seven years her junior. What Holmes did on the track was simply pulverising. She toyed with the field and then, running wide, destroyed it in a winning time of three minutes 57.9 seconds.

It was ­ as far as it can ever be said to be so in the never-simple world of big-time athletics ­ the perfect victory. It separated her from her rivals in a quite astonishing way. That it should come in her last Olympics and so apparently effortlessly was just another source of wonder.

Only one British runner had ever achieved such a feat before, Albert Hill in 1920 in Antwerp. That distinction remained unique for 44 years until it was matched by the great Peter Snell of New Zealand in Tokyo. Among women, Holmes is just one of two to have achieved the double in the classic distance races. Svetlana Masterkova of Russia beat her to the prize in Atlanta eight years ago.

For Holmes, her second victory of the week here in the Olympic Stadium was another source of disbelief and joy. For the rest of the world, it was something that landed with the impact of pure surprise. She did more than win a foot race. She stunned the senses.

Paula Radcliffe was back at Heathrow before Holmes had even begun warming up. As she left this town she might have been a waif, a lost girl sitting on a cardboard suitcase at the bus station. In fact, she did have a certain distinction, bleak though it was. She was the face of the other side of the Olympics, the one that tells you what can happen when you cannot deliver your own ­ and your nation's ­ fantasy.

In all the ambition and pain of these 28th Olympics, nothing could begin to match the sheer emptiness of the 30-year-old Radcliffe's retreat. Her life, her face seemed to say, had been stripped down and made devoid of meaning. In the past, the world had seen how painful defeat could be for her. Three years ago, in the world championships, it led to a public row with her former athlete husband, Gary Lough. But here the price has been clearly, and hauntingly, higher.

If Radcliffe could see anything outside the small circle of the pain that consumed her when she dropped out of last Sunday's marathon, the rise of Holmes must have seemed like the last cruel dimension of her own eclipse.

Fortunately, there has been no dire shortage of old and new heroes and heroines. Holmes's achievement was a bonus. Matthew Pinsent and his rowers, predictably, delivered more glory; Ben Ainslie entrenched his reputation as the greatest single-handed sailor of his generation; and Bradley Wiggins cycled like a demon. And today, maybe, a 17-year-old Amir Khan ...

News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
art

The Sistine Chapel is set to be illuminated with thousands of LEDs

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?