altBy Dame Kelly Holmes - 24 March 2009

Nothing, but nothing, will ever compare with the nerves and excitement I felt when I stood on the start line of my Olympic finals. But today, as I host the first of my new Trust's events for retiring athletes I do feel a certain sense of anticipation.

Goodness knows what would have happened if I had not won those two gold medals. With other successes in Athens in cycling and rowing, anything less than then a gold would have relegated me to a few lines in the sports pages, with athletics writers lamenting the loss of track and field's golden age.


But fortunately for me, my fate was different and I overcame all the "nearly" moments of an injury dogged career to stand on the rostrum as a champion and instead of "if only", I achieved what I had been hoping to do all my life: become Olympic champion. Actually more than even I could have dreamt of. I became a double Olympic champion.


As I stood on the podium, it really was the culmination of everything, the highest point in a journey that took years to reach, through which I gained many different skills, experiences and insights into what it takes to be your best, and learned finally how to triumph in the face of adversity.


Since that day I have continued to use these skills and begin to forge a new career. I have been lucky. Opportunities have come my way and I have been able to begin that transition through the twilight world of not being an elite athlete anymore, but not quite knowing what you are either is pretty tough.


It's a hard process because you lose your identity and as an elite performer like I was, there are literally hundreds of others who worked just as hard as me but whom don't always get the opportunities you do if you are in the limelight. Many get used, (and a few get abused!) In little deals or bits of work here and there, but all share the same struggle of post career blues.


altThese sports people know so much, have huge amounts of different experiences, strong characteristics and skills that can be of hugh benefit to others and yet when they finish competing many have an enormous void to fill in their lives. I have talked to a lots in many different sports about this, learning from their own stories. And for every person I have spoken to, the journey from elite performer to a new life is a tough one: emotionally, physically, psychologically and financially.


To me it is a travesty that we have not made the most of these people's skills in a systematic and developmental way and that is why I have set up the Dame Kelly Holmes (DKH Legacy Trust). It's core purpose is to harness expertise and talents of retired and retiring sports performers to realise the talents in others; in sport, in education and for some, in business.


We are providing general support, professional career development and mentoring opportunities for these ex-sports performers as they grapple with finding a new pathway and future, a new life, a new sense of identity, that builds on who they are and does not leave their ambitions gathering dust in the trophy cabinet.


We have got off to a good start, bringing on the support of BT who as 2012 Olympic sponsor have decided to invest in my Trust and support the Backing Talent programme we have been running already, a project which has already enabled some retired performers to work with up and coming talent in East of London.


But today is a first, where we are bringing together over 50 ex-performers for a two day conference focused on helping them find and harness their own talents. We are working with many National Governing Bodies of Sport, various business to develop ways that will enable more retiring sports stars to play a role in a range of ways, and I am delighted that Jennie Price from Sport England is supporting us.


So, we are on the start line. Has it been easy getting here? No way! Are we ready? Oh yes! Will we last the race? I don't give up that easily remember!


I believe our retiring sports people can play a big role in sport and in inspiring young people and that is my part in giving back to my peers and also to the world of sport which, because of my own journey helped me become who I am today.


Dame Kelly Holmes won the 800 and 1500 metres gold medals at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. She also won the bronze medal in the 800m at the Sydney Games in 2000. She is now the chair of the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust. More details can be found at


A fascinating insight into what happens the cheering stops and
athletes have to return to the real world. Kelly is to be
commended for trying to help those who have never scaled the
heights that she did. Good luck Kelly!By Bridgett Bradley, USA

25 March 2009 at 10:51am

I think everything that helps harness the lessons learnt by
people like Kelly can only be good. I have seen her at a couple
of functions since Athens and she is an inspiration.By Yvonne Lowry, Darlington

25 March 2009 at 12:04pm

Kelly certainly seems to be a lovely person, doing this when it
would have surely been easier for her to just settle back and
think that financially she would be okay for the rest of her
life. I think it sums her up as the lovely, wonderful person she
is.By Marian Lodge, New York

25 March 2009 at 13:37pm

Certainly alot of parallels to former rock/pop stars......"when
the lights go down". The difference is what can be learned from
the commitment an athlete makes. Quite the dichotemy if they knew
what they were facing. I wish her the best of luck.By Jeff Dockeray

26 March 2009 at 15:26pm

I am a current athlete who attended the dkh Legacy conference
this week, it was a great event and has given me some ideas and
inspiration for what to do with the experiences I have had as a
sports performer when I retire from my sport.
Thanks Kelly !By Helen Clitheroe

27 March 2009 at 10:46am