TUNZA magazine talks to Dame Kelly Holmes, Britain's golden girl
Kelly Holmes sprinted to victory twice at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, winning the 800m and the 1,500m, only the third woman in Olympic history to achieve the double. After a career dogged by ill-timed injuries, the 35-year-old former army sergeant beamed and lifted her arms in triumph as she won her second gold medal.
A recent poll voted the picture that captured this moment Britain's favourite photograph, beating Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon, Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding kiss, and the Beatles crossing Abbey Road.
Honoured by being made a Dame (Britain's female equivalent of a knighthood), Kelly Holmes has also been voted the UK celebrity most likely to inspire people to do voluntary or charity work. She's currently working with Sportability, a disabled sports charity, two children's cancer treatment specialist units at University College London Hospital (UCLH), and a women's breast cancer charity. She also mentors 12 British junior potential athletes through a programme called 'On Camp with Kelly' and promotes sport and fitness in townships in South Africa, where she trained for two years with fellow sprinter Maria Mutola of Mozambique.
Dame Kelly attributes much inspiration to working with Mutola, who became Mozambique's first-ever gold medallist at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney on winning the 800m. Mutola, who overcame enormous odds as a young runner from a shanty town, has become a national role model, and has set up the Maria Mutola Foundation to provide scholarships, kit and coaching to promising young athletes.
Much has been made of the international spirit of the Olympic Games. Do you believe that the cooperation and friendship shown between athletes from developed and developing countries can influence the way governments interact?
I believe that sport has no barriers and is the perfect avenue for interaction between developed and developing countries. The Olympic spirit has no boundaries - no matter what race, colour, religion or background. It brings everyone together to show solidarity, commitment, determination and passion and should be used as the stepping stone to build bridges of peace all over the world.
What would you say to people who protest that international sporting events like the Olympics favour athletes from richer backgrounds - who have the benefits of time, coaching and facilities - over those who lack such training opportunities?
I don't think the Olympics favour any one nation. Yes, some athletes have more opportunity to develop, but everyone who has ability and the will to succeed is likely to make it no matter what. Less-developed countries often do not have as stringent qualifying rules to enable everyone a fair chance of reaching their goals.
How do you think that young athletes - and youth in general - can best encourage North-South cooperation in their own countries?
It is important that the youth of today are fully informed of events around the world and make their own decisions and judgements on North-South relationships, rather than adhering to historic prejudices possibly held by older generations. When young sportspeople meet to compete against each other, they have an ideal opportunity to create strong and lasting friendships.
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