Dubai: Great Britain's middle-distance legend Dame Kelly Holmes has served a stark reminder to current sprint king Usain Bolt concerning the controversial false-start rule, stating: "Rules are rules".
The Jamaican Olympic champion shocked fans worldwide at the recent World Athletics Championship in Daegu when he false-started in the 100 metres final which automatically disqualified him from defending his title. The incident triggered a huge debate on the existing rule which came into effect two years ago and sees any athlete making a false start disqualified. However, the athletics ruling body, the IAAF, confirmed last month that the rule would stay in place for the London Olympics.
And on the sidelines of a visit to Dubai this week, Holmes, an ambassador for next summer's games, told XPRESS why she would have no sympathy for Bolt if he were to jump the gun again in London. "Let me put it this way, rules are rules and they are there not to be broken, simple as that," she said. "When I was an athlete competing, if the 100 metres was prior to our races, we could be waiting on that track to go up to 30 minutes. So we've done all our preparation, we're ready for our start time but because everyone was given another chance, it went on and on and on. Especially with the heats and semifinals, the 100 metres can be going on for about 45 minutes, an hour or over by at least 20-odd minutes. So it affected everybody else's performance because you're now waiting for them to finish and you're at an Olympic Games yourself."
Holmes was referring to the original rule which, until 2001, allowed every athlete one false start. The rule then changed where the field were allowed one false start with disqualification the punishment for whoever false-started thereafter. This rule change raised the issue of gamesmanship with sceptics suggesting an athlete could deliberately false start to put his rivals under pressure. Holmes said: "Now it could have happened if that rule was still in, that one person got the false start and then if Bolt had false-started, he would still have been out. So where do you draw the line? What's fair? There isn't really a fair thing. At the end of the day, you can't go before the gun. You're at that level, at an Olympics. You should know that, stay in the blocks. And if it wasn't Bolt, no one would be having this discussion."
The 41-year-old was in Dubai as a guest of British Telecom and the British Embassy and took time out of her schedule to visit the Dubai College where she conducted a short training session for students. Media too were treated to a brief video clip of her stunning double at the 2004 Athens Olympics where she won gold in both the 800m and 1,500m events. "I'd still pinch myself three months later," she said. "I'd still wake up and I'd still be on that start line. It was immense. To go back to Britain as double Olympic champion where everyone suddenly knows who you are, your name, shouting out of windows, out of cars...it was a bit overwhelming to be honest."
What made her achievement truly inspirational was the tough year she endured leading up to Athens. With a history of past injuries, Holmes would again suffer leg injuries while training in 2003 for what ended up being her third and final Olympic Games. It led her to suffer from clinical depression where at one point she even contemplated suicide. "I got injured again in 2003, and you know that you've got one more year [till the Olympics]. At the end of the day we're all human beings. So people forget that to deal with the success side of things as well as with the injuries and the bad side of things is a very tough journey," she said.
- Holmes was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the New Year's Honours List of 2005.
- She was presented with the honour by the Queen at Buckingham Palace on March 9, 2005, accompanied by her parents and grandfather.
- Winner of the Laureus World Sports Award for Sportswoman of the Year in 2005.
- In 2008, Holmes set up her own charity called the DKH Legacy Trust with a mission to create life chances for young people.