A legendary female British Olympian who really doesn’t need an introduction. Kelly Holmes once set the British records in the 600m, 800m and 1000m, achievements that have only recently been surpassed.
Kelly is an Olympic, World, Commonwealth and European multi-medallist. After winning gold in the 800m and 1500m at the 2004 Athens Olympics, she won BBC Sports Personality of the Year, European Athlete of the Year, World Athlete of the Year and was honoured with a Damehood by Her Majesty the Queen.
During Pride Month – June 2022 – Kelly shared her ‘relief at coming out as gay.’
She is one of the most popular and sought-after speakers on the circuit, with speaking topics including athletics and mental wellbeing, Dame Kelly Holmes has motivated audiences across the world.
Contact Great British Speakers today to book double-Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes for your next event.
Prior to her athletic career, Dame Kelly Holmes was in the British Army as a fully qualified HGV driver and physical training instructor. She spent ten years in service, being awarded an MBE in 1998 for her services to the force. Kelly was appointed Honorary Colonel of the Royal Armoured Corps in 2018, making her official title, Colonel Dame Kelly Holmes. In 1997, after much thought, she took the massive step and left the army to focus on her athletic career.
She first noticed her running talent whilst at school, and with the support of her PE teacher, she attended race meetings across the UK in the hopes she would make it to an Olympics game. Her first medal came in the 2000 games in Sydney, where she won a bronze medal in the 800m. Determined to better that, she put all her focus and attention on the 2004 Athens games. However, this aim was overshadowed by repeated physical injuries and periods of depression and self-harm, consumed by the pressure to recover and compete at top levels. Nevertheless, it was at these games that she won gold in the 800m and 1500m races, becoming the first woman and the first Briton in over 80 years to do so.
During her athletics career, she also won two Commonwealth Gold and one Silver medals, two World Championship Silver and one Bronze medals, one World Indoor Championship Silver medal, two European Championship Silver and one Bronze medals, two European Cup Gold and one Silver medals, one IAAF World Cup Bronze medal, and one IAAF World Athletics Gold and one Silver medals.
Thanks to her impressive career, she’s been awarded many accolades including European Female Athlete of the Year, Female Performance of the Year, Sports Writers Association Woman of the Year, British Athletics Writing Association Female Athlete of the Year, BBC Radio London SPOTY, BBC Radio London Athlete of the Year, BBC South East Courier Awards, Celebrity Sports Star of the Year, Sunday Times Sports Woman of the Year, Best Sport Moment of the Year, Glamour Magazine Sports Woman of the Year, Woman of the Year Outstanding Achievement Award. Since retiring, Kelly has received over a dozen honorary doctorates from a variety of education establishments, and in 2010 was inducted into the England Athletics Hall of Fame.
She has published a number of books such as Kelly Holmes in Her Own Words (2013), Get Your Kids Fit: The Parent’s Guide to Healthy, Happy Active Kids (2007), Just Go For It: 6 Simple Steps to Achieve Success (2011), Kelly Holmes: Black, White & Gold: My Autobiography (2008) and Running Life: Mindset, Fitness & Nutrition for Positive Wellbeing (2018) which won the Sports Health & Fitness Book of the Year Award for the Telegraph Sports Awards in 2019.
Charity & Mental Health
After a successful athletic career, Kelly turned to more charitable ventures, with the aim of helping young people with their sport and their mental wellbeing, and particularly to empower young women. She created an app titled ‘Elf at Work’ to help empower employees and support businesses to thrive.
In 2019, Kelly launched her own podcast What do I do? ‘Mental Health and Me’ – which offers listeners an honest and relatable insight into how some of the UK’s best-loved celebrities cope with their mental health.
In 2006, Kelly became the National School Sport Champion and pioneered the creation of National School Sport Week. She also led the creation of Girls Active with the Youth Sports Trust. In 2012, her own charity The Dame Kelly Holmes Trust won the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Volunteering Award, and Sport England appointed it as a delivery partner in the new Youth and Community Strategy. She was the president of the Commonwealth Games England between 2009 and 2015. She is also the patron of the Jaguar Academy of Sport, and ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, Variety Club of Great Britain, Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards Scheme, Sports Relief, Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, Hospice in the Weald, Kent Sports and ForceSelect Foundation.
In June 2022, Dame Kelly Holmes came out as gay and has since been on a number of programmes discussing her reasoning behind the announcement including Loose Women (2022) and This Morning (2022).
An ITV documentary titled Kelly Holmes: Being Me (2022) was released, documenting how she prepared to break the news and explores the reasons which stopped her going public for over 30 years.
“I’m a gay woman, but I’ve been unable to live my life authentically.”
The documentary explains that her fear of being ‘outed’ stems from her time in the arm. When she served during the 1980s and 1990s, being gay in the military was illegal (it was finally made legal in 2000). It was whilst in the forces that she developed “this absolute fear” of being found out which has never left her. She explained that the Royal Military Police would routinely search through soldiers’ rooms to find “evidence” of sexuality; thankfully, she was regularly tipped off so she could ensure there was no clear evidence of her sexuality. However, she goes on to explain that other people were not so lucky – but this fear has stayed with her even after retiring from the forces.
Keeping her sexuality a secret for so long meant her “mental health suffered greatly”. When she was ill with COVID-19, she thought about her funeral and how few people would know the true her: “I need people to see that it hurts”.
Now, as well as being an inspirational athlete, proud military veteran and advocate for mental health provisions, she has also become a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community and intends to help others in her position.
Kelly’s experience with athletics, mental health, the military and her charity work, means she is a fantastic choice to hire to speak for your event. She is eloquent and funny; encouraging and empowering. She provides practical and inspirational advice so you can achieve your ambitions. Her keynote topics include:
– Athletics, Sports, the Olympics
– Mental Health in the Workplace
– Overcoming Adversity
– Life in the Military
– Achieving Peak Performance
– LGBTQ+ ‘Coming Out’
– Women’s Empowerment and Networking
She has worked alongside many high-profile brands such as Actis, BP, BT, Cabot Financial, GSK, LinkedIn, Team GB and Unilever.
Dame Kelly Holmes is the perfect addition to any motivational keynote talk, conference or event, with her key takeaways always leaving audiences wanting more.
“The talk exceeded our expectations, the energy, authenticity and inspiration Kelly gave our colleagues was brilliant and since the session finished only 30 minutes ago, we have been inundated with positive feedback and comments. A huge thank you for agreeing to be part of our employee wellbeing initiative.” – Megan, MDLZ
“Thank you Dame Kelly Holmes, you really inspired and motivated the delegates to achieve their life goals through an interactive and fun session. Your style made for a stunning presentation, which engaged the audience 100%. We really appreciated your honesty and openness and the opportunity to ask questions.” – Shell
“It was an honour and a privilege to have Dame Kelly Holmes speak at our annual staff conference. Her talk was as inspiring as it was moving and I know all the staff present were grateful to have her there. I’d like to offer my personal thanks to Kelly for her passion and enthusiasm which exemplify so well the attitude Newham College tries to encourage in its staff.” – Newham College of Further Education
“Dame Kelly truly went above and beyond for the hospice on Friday and we are extremely grateful. It was an absolute pleasure for our Fundraising Director to show Dame Kelly around the hospice prior to the event. The audience absolutely loved Dame Kelly’s interview with Dougie on stage and thought she really was a true inspiration. We truly hope Dame Kelly enjoyed being involved.” – Amanda, The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice.
“She was fantastic. Really engaging and spent so much time with everyone. It’s being really talked about across the company – people just loved her sessions and how engaging she was. Thank you!” – Duncan, Domestic and General.
“Kelly was fantastic. We enjoyed having her on stage and the audience were clearly engaged – she covered a wide variety of topics in a relatable way. I have heard nothing but positive feedback from attendees. The crowd were particularly interested in her charitable endeavours. She was both humble and inspiring.” – Indeed