How Kelly got on the run

Commonwealth Games star Kelly Holmes will never forget the PE teacher who first spotted her talent. Jon Slater reports

Budding athletes at Hugh Christie technology college have a lot to live up to.

Former pupil Kelly Holmes was one of England's Commonwealth Games stars, reclaiming the 15,000 metres title she first won in 1994.

Debbie Page, who is still a PE teacher at the school, first spotted Kelly's talent and put her on the road to stardom. She managed to persuade the 12-year-old with a dislike of cross-country running not only to race but to join her local athletics club.

Miss Page has taught PE at Hugh Christie in Tonbridge, Kent, for 20 years. Andrew Titerall, who plays rugby for Sale and has represented England at under-21 level, is another successful former pupil.

A former county level athlete herself at 200m and 400m - she was decidedly less keen on the longer distances favoured by her former pupil - Miss Page admits to feeling proud when she watches Kelly competing on the world stage.

"You do not know when you are teaching a Year 11 pupil that they will achieve all that Kelly has done although you could see that she had that ability," she said.

She is particularly impressed at Kelly's refusal to let repeated and serious injuries stand in her way. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Kelly won bronze in a year when her schedule had been seriously disrupted by injury.

She has stayed in touch with her former teacher, and invited her to the ceremony when she was granted the freedom of Tonbridge and Malling. She also visits her old school.

"We use her success as an inspiration for our pupils. Some of them find it quite difficult to accept that Kelly ran round the school track too. Not to mention the fact that she had to obey the rules and wear uniform just like they do," she said.

My Best Teacher, Friday, 4

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