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Dame Kelly Holmes has come out as gay after years of living in “fear” of being outed and says she's now "finally free".
The 52-year-old Olympic legend broke a 30-year silence on her sexuality in a heartfelt interview with The Sunday Mirror. Holmes, who won gold for Team GB in the 800m and 1500m races in Athens 2004, revealed her close circle had already known but that she kept her homosexuality away from the public.
Holmes said that even at her post-Olympics parade in front of 80,000 adoring fans, she was filled with dread at being “outed” for homosexuality while she was in the Army.
She told the Sunday Mirror: “Thousands of people had come to see me and there were even thanks from the Army. Winning gold was everything I dreamed of since I was a child.
“I come back from the Olympics and stand on a bus with two gold medals for my country – and all I’m thinking is, ‘What if somebody says something… that I had relationships with women when I was in the Army’? I was living in fear.”
The former sergeant was terrified at being jailed if her secret was ever revealed due to the banning of homosexuals within Army ranks. And she claimed she was afraid of being punished retrospectively even after the disgraceful ban was abolished in 2000.
After years of keeping others at arm's length at industry events and not speaking about relationships outside of her close circle, 2020 was when Holmes hit breaking point. The iconic athlete was struck by Covid-19 in October and decided during her illness she didn’t want her close friends to feel as though she hadn’t been herself when she one day passed away.
Holmes said: “When I was lying on the sofa feeling awful I realised that if something happened to me, they’re the ones who would be saying, ‘It’s such a shame Kelly couldn’t stand there and be herself’. I don’t want that to be said at my funeral.”
She eventually sought the help of a psychologist who guided her through the pressure she had carried on her shoulders, as well the professional burnout as a result of years of athletics and public work. And after battling fears of self-harm for years, Holmes now sees an exciting future.
For emotional support, you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.
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