Dame Kelly: ‘Other sports may well come out’ with child abuse claims

    HIGH ACHIEVER: Dame Kelly with her award at Grosvenor House

    Dame Kelly Holmes spoke about her fears that child abuse is widespread in other sports after her services to a charity for young people were recognised last week.

    Her comments in the wake of the scandal engulfing football came after she received a lifetime achievement award at the Pride of Sport ceremony.

    The double Olympic champion from Hildenborough was honoured for her work with the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, which she set up in 2008.

    Appearing on Good Morning Britain the next day, she said: “I absolutely think people are going to speak out in swimming, gymnastics, athletics.

    “You hear those things have been done in the past and I’ve heard of people that have said it, that are friends since this all came out to light. I don’t think this is a closed door at the moment.”

    She added: “I predict that might happen because now people want to talk if they’ve had that situation, and the thing is a lot of people didn’t talk because of an embarrassment factor. There could also be a threat factor, who knows?

    “It didn’t happen to me personally, you know, and I can’t categorically say ‘Yes it absolutely is going to happen’, but you would assume if coaches are doing it in one sport and they’re involved with children and there’s that prevalence to do things, then surely other sports may come out as well, which will be a real shame.”

    She received her award at a gala dinner hosted by the Mirror at Grosvenor House in London last Wednesday.

    The organisers said: “She remains one of Great Britain’s most recognised sporting figures and continues to be an inspiration to young and old following her achievements on the track and her infectious enthusiasm and ability to overcome adversity off it.”

    The trust develops world-class athletes and work with them to deliver programmes that transform the lives of disadvantaged youths.

    The aim is to create long-term behaviour change in young people aged 14 to 25, using the trained sportsmen and women, known as the GiveBack Team, to help them make positive life choices.

    The Trust has now worked with more than 300,000 people, and 70 per cent of those who took part in its flagship Get on Track programme are now in employment, education or training.

    The 45-year-old took part in the London Marathon for the first time this year, to raise awareness for mental health issues, especially among the young.

    She has admitted her own struggles with depression, self-harming in the run-up to the Athens Games because of recurring injuries.

    She said at the time: “Mental health issues are so often silenced, but more and more people, including children, are going through personal turmoil.”

    Her charity takes up the theme: “We use world-class athletes in every programme we run as they have the energy, optimism, experience and capabilities to unlock the positive attitudes in others.”

    The former distance runner, who is also celebrating the second anniversary of her 1809 café in Hildenborough, is set to be immortalised in a statue by sculptor Guy Portelli.

    The South African sculptor, who lives in Tonbridge, created the Dreamcatcher for Hillview School in memory of former pupil Becky Earland.

    He also forged a representation of a poppy for the Memorial Gardens in the town based on a design by another Hillview student, Ellie Baxter.

    Last month his commemoration of the Battle of Hastings was installed at a roundabout in the town of Battle, East Sussex.

    The statue will depict Dame Kelly draped in the Union flag after winning the 800m and 1500m at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

    Jeremy Whittaker, Economic Regeneration Officer for Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, confirmed: “The Borough Council is supporting traders in Quarry Hill, Tonbridge, on a project to locate a statue of Dame Kelly Holmes near St Stephen’s Church in Quarry Hill Parade.

    “We are unable to confirm details at the moment but we are in discussion with contractors regarding when it might be possible to start work on the foundations. We will then be able to confirm the likely timescale for completion.”