It was September 1, 2004, and with two gold medals round her neck it ought to have capped the best achievement of her life.
Kelly, then 34, waved to supporters and flashed her trademark smile.
However inside, she was in items.
For regardless of the acclaim that got here with profitable the 800 metres and 1,500 metres, Kelly was full of dread that somebody would “out” her.
The previous Military sergeant feared she may very well be jailed below draconian Forces guidelines banning homosexuals within the ranks.
Right this moment, lastly revealing her true self and speaking to the Sunday Mirror on her terms, Dame Kelly recollects that day in Tonbridge, Kent – near the village of Hildenborough, the place she grew up.
She says: “Individuals have been hanging out of home windows like I used to be this pop star.
“1000’s of individuals had come to see me and there have been even tanks from the Military. Successful gold was every thing I dreamed of since I used to be a baby.
“I come again from the Olympics and stand on a bus with two gold medals for my nation – and all I’m pondering is, ‘What if anyone says one thing… that I had relationships with ladies after I was within the Military’? I used to be residing in concern.”
A second parade, with fellow winners from Workforce GB, adopted in London the following month. Some 200,000 hailed the heroes however, as soon as extra, Kelly’s pleasure was muted.
Even after the Forces’ shameful ban on homosexuals was abolished in 2000, Kelly was afraid she may very well be punished retrospectively.
The Olympic golds have been amongst numerous victories blighted by the burden of her secret, which she carried for 34 years – till immediately. Kelly, 52, gained Sports activities Character of the 12 months in 2004, obtained a damehood the next 12 months and arrange her personal youth charity, the Dame Kelly Holmes Belief. However she by no means felt in a position to reveal her personal fact.
Kelly tells us: “I really feel like I’ve at all times put limitations up with individuals. I might disguise behind them, making an attempt to make them snort.
“I didn’t ask them about their relationship – in order that they wouldn’t ask me. At an occasion I might be well mannered, pleasant, however it will all be very prime line, after which I’d go. I’d by no means spend sufficient time with anyone as a result of I couldn’t – as a result of how may I inform them the reality? And that’s affected my profession, as a result of I’ve at all times felt like I may do extra.”
Shedding her beloved mom Pam Norman in 2017 to myeloma, a sort of blood most cancers, marked a turning level.
Kelly explains: “On the day she died I couldn’t cope and I bear in mind self-harming. It was the final time I did that, as a result of I believed, ‘This isn’t going to carry her again’. I knew I wanted to make use of this as my energy to grasp that she’s not residing, however I used to be nonetheless right here to stay by not hurting myself and by being myself. However I didn’t know the way to.”
The set off for change got here in October 2020, when Kelly was struck down by Covid. She says: “I’ve lived my personal life brazenly – everybody near me is aware of I’m homosexual.
“After I was mendacity on the couch feeling terrible I realised that if one thing occurred to me, they’re those who could be saying, ‘It’s such a disgrace Kelly couldn’t stand there and be herself’. I don’t need that to be mentioned at my funeral.”
The difficulty turned “all-consuming” for Kelly within the following months. And in December 2020 she hit breaking level. She goes on: “I used to be on the brink. I believed I used to be going to do one thing dangerous. I needed to maintain myself in my mattress as a result of all I may envision was going downstairs and getting a knife.
“I realised, ‘I can’t do that, as a result of I haven’t self-harmed since my mum died’. So I obtained up and emailed this counsellor for the primary time ever – as a result of I needed to do one thing.
“I chatted along with her and it didn’t work for me as a result of she questioned if I’m ashamed of being homosexual, which I hated. I’m not ashamed, I do know who I’m. It was simply killing me not with the ability to say something, not figuring out the way to say it.”
As an alternative, she sought out a psychologist. In April 2021 she was recognized with skilled burnout and took 10 months off her charity, public talking and TV work. She says: “I couldn’t perform, I couldn’t assume, I couldn’t really feel, I couldn’t be.
“My psychologist defined the build-up of traumas and holding this large have to shout, ‘That is who I’m!’ had stopped me functioning.”
Kelly continued to see the psychologist, in addition to a hormone specialist.
She provides: “It helped. Your folks say, ‘It’s all proper as a result of society doesn’t care any extra’, however you possibly can’t change off concern like that.
“Plenty of individuals come out, however they haven’t lived by way of the eighties with the stigmatisation, they weren’t within the Military, the place it was unlawful for them to be homosexual. This journey helped me really feel it was okay.” Kelly now hopes to talk out on LGBTQ+ points and assist causes she cares about, presumably by making extra TV documentaries.
“Privately I’ve lived my life brazenly, however professionally I haven’t – and professionally is basically essential to me,” she says. “I’ve by no means been to Pleasure, I’ve by no means been to an LGBT occasion.
“I’m a motivational speaker however as quickly as they ask me to discuss variety and inclusion I’ve at all times been like, no. That’s too shut to discuss. I averted every thing.”
Right this moment, Kelly sees an thrilling future and says her mum could be actually proud and completely happy for her.
In tribute to Pam, she has a tattoo over her coronary heart of an empty jigsaw phase describing her mum as her “lacking piece”.
Final 12 months she had the phrase “life” inked on her wrist. “It’s a reminder that I selected to stay,” she explains.
“The semi-colon as an alternative of the ‘I’ is the image of psychological well being. Within the dangerous occasions it’s good to consider what I went by way of to be right here.
“I want this level I’ve obtained to psychologically and emotionally may have come 10 years in the past.
“I want I used to be 30 and coming into this world as a result of it’s enjoyable for individuals now – there’s hope and alternative.
“I’m not that age however I’m nonetheless residing. And now it’s time for me to shine.”