Continuing our series of AW content from years gone by, here is our coverage of Holmes’ two gold medal wins in 2004
Edition: September 1, 2004
Special K hits golden jackpot
It began for Kelly Holmes at 10.06pm on the first day of the athletics programme at the Olympic Games and it ended in dreamland. But not even she could have expected such an outcome.
In her opening 800m heat, which was the third on the programme, she had no trouble qualifying from the first round when she won the race in 2:00.81 followed by Jearl Miles Clark, of the USA, who was second in 2:01.33 with Jamaican Michelle Ballentine third in 2:01.52.
There was progress too from round one for Jo Fenn, Britain’s other representative in this event, in the next race of the night as she was third in her third round heat in 2:03.72 behind Svetlana Cherkasova, of Russia, who won in 2:03.60 with Amina Ait Hammou, of Morocco, second in 2:03.70.
Here then began in earnest the tough schedule for Holmes because just under 24 hours later the semi-finals took place, an increase in pace and total command again from the British No.1 who was looking so confident and controlled. She was first in this opening semi in 1:57.98, qualifying along with Russian Tatyana Andrianova, automatically, and Miles Clark and Zulia Calatayud, of Cuba, as two fastest losers.
But there was no such luck for Fenn, who found herself in a tricky heat and failed to make it as a quickest finisher after finishing fifth.
Maria Mutola led the way, winning in 1:59.30 and though Fenn made an impression throughout, after the Mozambique runner had stretched away along the home straight, followed by Maria Cioncan, of Romania, who was second in 1:59.44, Fenn’s time of 2:00.60 was not enough.
As a race itself, never mind the fact Holmes won to become only the seventh British track and field woman to be crowned Olympic champion, it was dramatic stuff.
She chose to play it the way she had run her earlier rounds, not pressing the ‘go’ button until she needed to and when she did, finding there was so much left.
Twelve months earlier there was the controversy at the world championships in Paris when she won silver behind training partner Mutola, with claims they had worked out the race tactics together to run as a team. No repeat this time as Holmes provided Mutola with only her second defeat in 39 races at the distance.
Miles Clark led the way in a quick pace with Holmes seventh at the bell. Mutola started to move through the field, Holmes followed, gradually moving nearer towards her.
Suddenly she was alongside Mutola and as they reached the home straight, Holmes took over. She was ahead, gold was hers and amazingly there was no response from Mutola, but there was from two sources that looked like they had been beaten.
As the line drew closer, Hasna Benhassi, of Morocco and Slovenia’s Jolanda Ceplak were edging nearer. But not enough. Holmes won, not that she could even believe it, her eyes looking like they were going to pop out of their sockets as she waited for confirmation on the scoreboard.
She triumphed in 1:56.38, a season’s best time (she had come into the event with her quickest time in 2004 as 1:57.98), ahead of Benhassi, who was second in 1:56.43, a national record, with Ceplak third in 1:56.43.
“I kept to my race plan which was to stay back as long as possible and then I knew the last 150m had to be all out and I decided to go for it,” said Holmes. “I have more strength than speed but I had to risk staying back.
“But I can’t believe it. I didn’t realise I had won and had to see the replay twice to be sure. I saw the line coming and I fought for it. I held on for dear life.
“I have had all those dreams and I thought everything was going too good this time and I thought it would go again, but I came through.
“Someone told me at the side of the track that I’d won and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.”
Her victory meant Holmes was the first Briton to win an Olympic 800m title since Steve Ovett 24 years earlier.
Historic double with 1500 win
A day after she had won her glorious gold medal in the 800m, Kelly Holmes was back in action and the women’s heats of the 1500m proved competitive from the start.
There were three races, with the 44 entrants, the first five in each race progressing along with the nine fastest losers.
Hayley Tullett had been one of Britain’s medal heroines at the world championships in Paris last summer when she won a bronze medal in the 1500m but she had to wait to see if she was into the semis after finishing seventh here, in the opening race, in 4:07.27.
Russian Tatyana Tomashova triumphed in 4:06.06 but when the figures were calculated after all three heats, Tullett’s speed at the finish was enough to see her through in what had been the second quickest of the races.
Round one, heat two, and a familiar story. Holmes was back and again running so smoothly, just like she had in the qualifying competition for the 800m final. And despite the emotion of the previous night, she sat at the back of the 15-runner field, moving around the side of the pack with 250m to go and then ensuring she was through with a confident break in the home straight, to progress in second place in 4:05.58 as Natalya Yevdokimova, of Russia, won in 4:05.55.
But in the third heat there was disappointment for Jo Pavey. She had finished a superb fifth in the final of the 5000m the night before but was 13th in her 1500m heat. She had looked to make a mark in the last lap but the exertions of the 5000m final had taken their toll.
Pavey clocked 4:12.50 as Romanian Maria Cioncan won in 4:06.68.
“I wanted to give the 1500m a go because this is the Olympic Games and I hadn’t kept anyone else out of the team,” said Pavey. “But there was just nothing in my legs at all. I am disappointed not to get into the final and I gave it my best but after the 5000m there wasn’t a lot there.”
There was then a day’s rest before the semi-finals where Tullett exited after she was 11th in the first of them, running 4:08.92 as Cioncan, who was looking comfortable throughout, won in 4:06.69.
The first five in each heat plus the two fastest losers went through, but this time Tullett was just too far down the field to progress.
Holmes resumed normal business. Staying at the back of her race, before slipping through the gears to reach the final in 4:04.77, finishing second in her race behind Natalya Yevdokimova, of Russia, who won in 4:04.66.
It was Thursday night and the final was 48 hours away. Holmes headed off to concentrate on what was ahead, the chance to become Britain’s greatest woman athlete at an Olympic Games.
Fast forward to the moment. As the runners came out for the final, Holmes looked concentrated and she never seemed to panic or make a break too soon in the race where Yevdokimova set the pace.
If the other girls thought they would have to break Holmes, who was not the fastest in the field but undoubtedly the one to beat, they did not make an impression.
With a lap to go, Holmes slowly moved into seventh. Then with 250m to go she progressed again as Yevdokimova slipped back.
Along the home straight, there was only one winner. Holmes triumphed in 3:57.90, breaking her British record of 1:58.07 that she had set over seven years ago in Sheffield, to beat Tatyana Tomashova, of Russia, who was second in 3:58.12 with Cioncan third in 3:58.39. Both other medallists achieved personal best times.
But not since Albert Hill, at the Olympic Games in Antwerp in 1920, had a Briton (and he had been the only one) achieved this double and Holmes became only the third woman in history to do it, following two Russians, Tatyana Kazankina in Montreal 1976 and Svetlana Masterkova in Atlanta in 1996.
She said: “I have been training specifically for the 1500m and the hardest thing was to focus. I knew I was in good shape and I was just saying to myself: ‘One more, one more’.
“I’ve looked at my 800m medal every morning and I’ve had tears in my eyes. I have had so many injuries in the last seven years and I have only brought back silvers and bronzes. Now I have had an injury-free year and look what has happened.”
Reports by Richard Lewis.