My best teacher

I quite enjoyed school even though I was more into all the outdoor stuff and playing sport than the academic work. I was into art and design as well, but I didn't get any O-levels because I was too involved in the Duke of Edinburgh awards at the time. I passed all my CSEs, though - it was before GCSEs were invented.

I really liked sport from an early age and, not surprisingly, my favourite teacher at Hugh Christie secondary school in Tonbridge was Debbie Page, the PE teacher. She's still there, still teaching PE.

She must have been the biggest influence on me because she got me into running. I used to hate doing cross-country, but she convinced me to do a race when I was 12. I took a bit of persuading at first, but I ended up coming second against a girl called Stacey Washington, who was the number one for our age in the whole country.

Then Debbie realised I'd obviously got a bit of talent and took me down to my local track at Tonbridge athletics club. That's where I met Dave Arnold, who is still my coach today. Six months later I was the English schools 1500m champion on the track, and it's all just gone on from there.

Debbie was just so pro-sport. She was always there and always giving loads of advice and encouragement. I don't know what it was about her that was so special, but I suppose she was just good at her job - brilliant at in in fact.

Everybody liked her because she was such a great source of motivation for a lot of girls. It was a mixed school, but she helped the girls a lot, which was great, especially at our age when so many tended to drop out of sport. She was good with everyone, but I think she was so keen for us to do well that she made a real difference to loads of us. She was the person we looked up to when we were in the gym or when we were practising.

We did a lot of team sports - all the usual school sports that everyone does, like netball, hockey and rounders. I did athletics as well, obviously. But when I joined the army I started doing lots of others sports, like judo and volleyball. We didn't play a lot of hockey matches at school because we didn't have proper hockey pitches. But I did play netball and represented the school.

My other passion was design graphics but I can't remember the name of the teacher. I really liked drawing and design, and he was helpful and encouraging. He gave me a lot of advice and I got my highest grade at CSE for that subject, so he must have been good.

But I was more of an outdoor person. I wasn't academic and didn't really like any of those subjects, so none of my other teachers had much of a chance. Sport was my thing. Apart from Debbie, the other teacher I remember was the other PE teacher, Jan Blanchard.

I'm sure there were things that I picked up from both of them - but Debbie in particular - that influenced me when I became an instructor in the army: ways of motivating people and getting them to get the most out of themselves. Maybe I got my motivation from her too - I've been accused of training too hard sometimes.

I've been back a couple of times to see Debbie. She is really proud of me. I have always mentioned her as I've gone through my career, and I think for somebody like her it's nice to know you're remembered and appreciated. When you're at school the teachers don't know who is going to grow up to be an Olympic champion, or whatever, so when you remember them they can appreciate the work they did. I think teachers feel what they do is worthwhile when they see people like myself doing well.

Athlete Kelly Holmes was talking to Matthew Brown

The story so far

1970 Born in Pembury, Kent

1982-87 Hugh Christie secondary school, Tonbridge, Kent

1983 English schools champion at 1500m

1987 Leaves school and gives up running 1988 Joins the army; becomes a

PTinstructor and army judo champion

1992 Returns to athletics

1994 Wins Commonwealth Games 1500m gold; silver at European Championships

1995 Wins 1500m silver medal and 800m bronze at World Championships

1997-98 Leaves army; awarded MBE

2000 Wins 800m bronze, Sydney Olympics

2002 Wins 1500m gold at Commonwealth Games in Manchester

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