“Has anybody here seen Kelly? K-E -double L-Y” the refrain from a huge music hall hit became box office again in 2004 as the ever popular Kelly Holmes finally set aside her prior Olympic and World level disappointments, and previous consolation of clouds with silver linings, to win her lyrical double gold.
To have seen Kelly in action in Athens was something – a masterful display of tactical running with her wide eyed disbelief in the 800m that she had won then book-ended by the complete certainty of her assassin cool in the 1500m. Fans sweaty palms during the last 50m of the shorter race were able to clap her home with confidence over the final 250m of the metric mile when having calmly loaded the breach she patiently set and then pulled the trigger to shoot her-self into athletics history. Performances to be viewed again and again! Click here for Kelly in action: Kelly Holmes – Athens 2004
From a British perspective the surprise GB Men’s 4x100m victory when Jason, Darren, Marlon and Mark’s faultless baton exchanges defeated a careless USA performance added further gloss at the end of what otherwise had been, like Paris the year before, an underwhelming event. Kelly Sotherton excelled to win a bronze in the Heptathlon but elsewhere results were disappointing. None more so than the dramatic circumstances that caused Paula Radcliffe to drop out of the Marathon, and later the 10,000m too. With unfortunate prescience at our T&FT Supporters Welcome Party our star guest Rosa Mota – 1988 Olympic champion and winner of the 1982 European Champs Marathon in Athens – warned of the historic but notoriously tough marathon course and that with the daytime running of the event the heat and humidity would provide a tough challenge. She reasoned that she was not certain Paula would prevail in these circumstances as much as she admired her talent as the best all round long distance runner of her generation – and so it proved to be and not much consolation to have it predicted by Rosa.
However, in the stadium the ideal evening conditions saw 10 Olympic records and two world records – Isanbayeva in the Pole Vault and Xiang equalling Colin Jackson’s 110mH record. El Guerrouj won his impressive 1500m / 5000m double and Sweden’s hot streak continued with Kluft, Holm and Olsson winning gold medals. As fans we took joy from what we experienced and with our group’s hotel located on a beach and our smooth running stadium busing programme clients there had a good time. Other clients staying in apartments were within walking distance of the stadium too which was optimal and where we had a good number athletes family members staying. However, for the family of Leevan Sands a Bahamian medal favourite in the Triple Jump his fan group arrived into Athens at 06.30 on the day of the Triple Jump qualifying checked into their apartment and were in the stadium bleary eyed just in time to unfortunately watch two no jumps and a very below par 3rd attempt to not make it to the final all with their first 6 hours in the Greek capital – sport can be very cruel.
As it had been too in Bydgoszcz, at the European Cup Final, earlier in the summer when Ashia Hansen’s horrific injury effectively ended her medal winning triple jump career. Paula Radcliffe’s 5000m victory in a GB record 14:29.1 was an insight into what her season might have been but it was not enough to prevent the GB Women’s team from being relegated in 8th place from the top division of the event. The GB Men’s team’s 7 event victories secured 4th place in a tight competition with just 5 pts covering the top 4 teams in the ever exciting event format. A staple for fans this then annual event had become a very much looked forward fixture in the travel calendar but in 2005 the British Men and Women’s teams would not be competing at the same venue.
Earlier in the year the World Indoors in Budapest saw Jason Gardener practice wearing a gold medal and singing the national anthem at a world level championship event when victorious in the 60m. The only other British medallist was the surprise bronze and 800m national record performance of 1:59.50 by Joanne Fenn, the peak of her career. Meanwhile Sweden won 4 medals to finish 3rd in the medals table behind the rampant USA and Russia squads – Holm and Olsson again won golds and Carolina Kluft opting for the Long Jump set a PB and NR when coming 3rd with 6.92m in preparation for Athens, confirming the rapid rise of the 21 year old as the Olympic multi-event favourite to be fulfilled a few months later.