POSTED: September 7th 2010

NEIL WILSON: Kelly factor shows golden legacy can be just a phone call away

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

LONDON, Sep 07: Cassie Patten, an Olympic bronze medallist in Beijing in open water swimming, knows exactly what she is going to do after the next Games in London. “Swim the Channel, run a marathon and do an Ironman triathlon. All three of those,” she told a 2012 press conference last week.

The danger, she said, for retiring Olympians is that you go from starting your day at 5.30 in the morning, with every hour structured, and then suddenly you have nothing, no reason to rise even.

Hers might seem an extreme prescription for post-Olympic life but she has a point. Filling the void has a psychological and importance. Sir Steve Redgrave eased himself down from Olympic training by running the London marathon for charity, and there are increasingly examples of the famous filling the void by putting something back into their sport.

A reminder of this came with a press release to alert me to an expedition around the fast-rising Olympic Park in London by a group of young women athletes, led by Dame Kelly Holmes. Her legacy to her sport has been to create a group of aspiring middle distance runners which she mentors.


It began for her after her double Olympic triumph in Athens under the title “On Camp with Kelly”.  Harnessing the power of her name, she attracted the multi-national company Aviva as a sponsor.

Training camps in South Africa and in Britain have become a regular feature. Holmes trains with those she helps at the camps – one this year was organised at the Tonbridge club where her athletics career developed – but she does not coach. Their training programmes are the preserve of their personal coaches.

Holmes’s input beyond the inspiration of her own achievements is the practical advice only a person who has gone through the process of development into an Olympian can offer. Holmes was an outstanding teenage athlete who endured the frustrations of injury but ultimately came out the other side to two golds in Athens.

There is no question the young athletes could possibly ask for which she would not have an answer, and all have her phone numbers for instant contact.

Team regulars

“Kelly helped me so much by making me more prepared for what to expect,” said Emma Pallant, now a senior British international. Many in the ever-expanding group, all of them arriving teenagers, are now regulars in British teams. Four will be going to the Commonwealth Games.

“I really believed that I had a lot to pass on and could help young athletes develop. It’s brilliant that it’s come to fruition,” says Dame Kelly.

Every new generation needs its role models. One on call is a real legacy.

NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

Keywords · Neil Wilson · Kelly Holmes · Pallant · Commonwealth Games

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