In her exclusive column for Kent on Sunday, CGE President Dame Kelly Holmes last week spoke of the special experiences she cherishes from the Commonwealth Games and how they prepared her for her ultimate athletic triumph – double Olympic gold.
“The Commonwealth Games in Delhi later this year provides our athletes with a chance to experience competing in the last major championships before the Olympics arrive in London in 2012.
I look back at my experience of the Commonwealths and remember what they did for me. The 1998 Games in Kuala Lumpur gave me an opportunity to compete, but if they were not so late in the year, as they are this season, I wouldn’t have raced at all that year due to injury. I missed the European Championships and it was only because the Commonwealth Games were there that it gave me something to focus on. I was determined to achieve something from what was a difficult year and I came out with a silver medal. If I had said at the beginning of the year that I wasn’t going to-do it for whatever reason, then I would have been one medal down, and for me, medals were all that counted during my career.
The Games are a great showcase, too, for England and all things English. It’s one of the few opportunities in the Olympic and Commonwealth sports where we can have pride in our national identity. Fortunately, England has a good deal of success at the Commonwealth Games and in Melbourne in 2006; we were second on the medal table with 110 medals in all. I think we stand a good chance of doing well again and it’s important we capitalize the momentum gained from our performance in Beijing.
It’s all good practice ahead of the 2012 Olympics where we will be putting ourselves, as a nation, on a platform. I think key to that, however, is how our athletes are funded. For this next decade of sport, funding has never been needed as much as it is now and without it we wouldn’t have got where we did in Beijing. It’s helped the performance of sports men and women by getting the right support teams around the athlete to help them succeed. Athletes are in a much better position than perhaps I was, but where the funding argument perhaps lets itself down is a lot of younger people expect to get funding now rather than earning it by getting to a certain level of performance. I do believe we should support people that show immense talent because at 2012 wearer going to be judged by how many medals we get as hosts – pure and simple.
Funding is critical, but we have to make sure it’s used for the right reasons and when it comes to individuals it shouldn’t be given out on a plate, for those too young, too soon. Meanwhile, I am really looking forward to our own event in the county, the Kent School Games, which enables young people to take part in a massive multi-sport event. I was lucky enough to launch the event in November and I will be there to see its conclusion at Maidstone Leisure Centre on June 23.”
Dame Kelly Holmes, the county’s double Olympic gold medallist, is one of Kent on Sunday’s Media’s regular sports columnists. http://www.kentnews.co.uk