Athletics: Dame Kelly Holmes backs Weightman for global status

Laura Weightman.
Laura Weightman.
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Leeds-based Laura Weightman has been backed to become a “world- class athlete” in 2013.

It could be a statement worth listening to – coming from 2004 double Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes – who also expects further stellar progress from Liversedge’s Jen Walsh.

Both girls have worked heavily with Holmes as part of her “On Camp With Kelly” initiative which celebrated its ninth birthday in December.

Making it to that milestone tenth anniversary is next on Holmes’ agenda though the 2004 Athens queen admits her involvement with “On Camp With Kelly” will not last forever with attentions beginning to turn to new challenges.


However, with or without her, the former 800m and 1,500m Olympic champion expects both of Yorkshire’s middle-distance queens to shine – with Weightman, coached by Steve Cram, in pole position after making the 1,500m final at London 2012.

“Laura has done amazing over this last year and a lot of it has to be down to her coach, Steve Cram,” Dame Kelly told LS1.

“Our intervention with ‘On Camp With Kelly’ has only been for four or five years with her –just giving her the education in the sport – and to see her in the final at the Olympics Games at such a young age was amazing!

“She has really catapulted forward this year and that has made her more confident in her own ability.”

Assessing the 21-year-old Leeds Met star’s future, Holmes added: “Middle-distance running in the UK for women is very strong right now so for Laura to be right up at the top is brilliant.

“She has a bright future and now she has got to use her experience in the right way to kick ahead.

“It’s one thing making the team and being in the final but she has got to become world class and that includes the times that you run, the consistency with which you run them in and the people that you beat.

“Laura is an international Olympian and she now needs to become a world-class athlete which she can definitely become.”

Weightman’s chief 2013 goal will be August’s World Championships in Moscow and versatile 1,500m and 800m runner Walsh will be looking to join her.

Walsh did not make last year’s Team GB Olympic team but her progress in 2012 continued and was highlighted by an eighth-placed finish in the 1,500m final at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona.

Holmes has been highly impressed with Walsh’s development knowing that at 19 years of age the Liversedge runner, who was a late recruit to the sport, still has time on her side.

“Jen has done brilliantly,” said Holmes. “She is quite an unassuming athlete because when you see her run you wouldn’t automatically think she is going to be this natural-born talent.

“But she has got this sort of die-hard hunger to do it and when you see her training you can see she is just like ‘let’s do it’.


“The last couple of years that she has been with ‘On Camp With Kelly’ Jen has learnt so much. She knew so little when she came into the sport as she hasn’t gone through the normal club structure route like a lot of people.

“But that means she has actually come into it with this kind of naivety which is quite nice and she is learning as she is getting older in the right way.

“Jen is only 19 and seeing how she has developed over these last few years I think she has really set the scene for what she is going to do in her mid-20s and later on.”

Holmes now thinks that key to Walsh’s development will be a 100 per cent focus on either the 1,500m or 800m but not both.

“I think she has to find her niche now and make sure she knows exactly what event is going to be suited to her,” said Holmes. “That’s a grand plan that she needs to solve.

“Then I think we’ll see whether she can make the same strides in the next couple of years in order to make the big one in Rio.”

That Games will mark the third since Holmes strutted her stuff in Athens.

But Holmes, now 42, is adamant she does not miss the competition and is happy for her “On Camp With Kelly” girls to shine instead.

“I don’t miss it and it’s really weird!” laughed Holmes, whose “On Camp With Kelly” initiative also works for Leeds-based women’s under-23 world triathlon champion Non Stanford.

She added: “I’m a lot older now and everyone has to give up at some stage. I enjoyed what I did and while it was hard and emotional it was fulfilling.

“I achieved my objective and dreams and I can’t ask for any more than that.

“Our ‘On Camp with Kelly’ has been going for nine years now and I think it has achieved its objectives.

“We set out to try and transition junior women into seniors and try and make them good standard runners at a national level if not international.

“We have achieved that and I think sometimes you have to almost think ‘okay, I have done that’ and move on to the next thing but it will be our tenth anniversary next January.

“I would like to try and keep it going to that one.”

Claire Duck.

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