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On this day in 2005: Dame Kelly Holmes announces retirement

Kelly Holmes celebrates winning the 800m at the 2004 Olympics (David Davies/PA)
Kelly Holmes celebrates winning the 800m at the 2004 Olympics (David Davies/PA)

Double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes announced her retirement from athletics on December 6, 2005.

Holmes had been a regular medallist at middle distance events, including winning bronze over 800 metres at the Sydney Olympics, but injuries had hampered her until the stars aligned in the build-up to the Athens Games in 2004.

And, at the age of 34, the Kent runner achieved her dreams, claiming gold in the 800m and then repeating the feat a few days later over 1,500m.

Dame Kelly Holmes (centre) was made an Honorary Colonel of the Royal Armoured Corps Training Regiment in 2018
Dame Kelly Holmes (centre) was made an Honorary Colonel of the Royal Armoured Corps Training Regiment in 2018 (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Holmes had planned to bow out at the Commonwealth Games in 2006 but brought forward her retirement plans.

The former army sergeant revealed at a press conference she had been badly affected by the death of a man she met while visiting her physiotherapist in Ireland.

She said: “I met a guy in Ireland called Tim O’Brian, a friend of my physio Gerard Hartmann. We met for lunch and he was full of life. I went back to South Africa and heard two days later from Gerard that he only had four weeks to live.

“He died only a few weeks ago of cancer. I was totally shocked, overwhelmed and uncontrollable in terms of my feelings. Something clicked in my mind. You never know where your life is going so why not make the most of everything?

Kelly Holmes with her two gold medals in Athens
Kelly Holmes with her two gold medals in Athens (David Davies/PA)

“I have achieved everything I ever wanted. I am a double Olympic champion. I have nothing to prove to anyone, including myself. I have done and surpassed what other people will continue to dream of.”

Holmes hung up her spikes having won 12 major medals across a 10-year span, including Commonwealth golds over 1,500m in 1994 and 2002.

Since retirement, Holmes has mentored young athletes, worked in TV and as a motivational speaker and written several books. She was made a Dame by the Queen in the New Year’s Honours of 2005 and appointed Honorary Colonel of the Royal Armoured Corps Training Regiment in 2018.