Double gold medal winner Dame Kelly Holmes, 42, on how the Olympic Games changed her life.HOW DID YOUR CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCE INFLUENCE YOUR ATTITUDE TO MONEY?
The main thing I learnt from my childhood was that you have to work hard to go out and get money and that it doesn’t grow on trees.
When I was young my parents didn’t have much money, so if I wanted pocket money I went out and earned it myself by washing cars.
Or I would go shopping for the old people in the flats across the road, who used to chuck 50p out of the window to me. I did whatever I could to make a bit of money so I could have my own things and not have to rely on my family, who needed to have the money to keep us. When I was 16 I became a nursing assistant for people with mental disabilities for a year, and then I went into the Army just before my 18th birthday.
HOW DID YOU FINANCE THE DEVELOPMENT OF YOUR ATHLETICS CAREER?
Because I was in the Army when I came back into international athletics, doing my job full-time as a physical training instructor, I had a wage. By then I was a corporal and then a sergeant, so I had a really decent wage. I used to just save that, which allowed me to be able to travel around a bit more and go training and then bring my coach on and pay for him to come up and help me with my training.
Then when funding first came in, it wasn’t a great amount because it was means tested. If you had a wage you got less funding, which I thought was a bit unfair. I was able to self-fund most of it because I had an Army wage, but when you have to become a full-time athlete you then do rely on other means of getting finance.
DO YOU MEAN SPONSORS?
That’s right. When you become successful in sport you do get sponsorship from kit people. You get your kit for free and bonuses for running fast. If you become one of the top in the world you go to Grand Prix and Golden League meetings and then prize money comes into it. But because I had a lot of injuries during my athletics career, my funding came from having a sponsor more than anything else.
WHEN YOU WON TWO GOLD MEDALS AT THE ATHENS 2004 OLYMPIC GAMES, HOW DRAMATICALLY DID YOUR LIFE CHANGE FINANCIALLY?
Everything was completely different after Athens. I got more sponsors and the sponsors I had became long-term partnerships. I’ve had a few that have lasted quite a few years and they certainly made a huge amount of difference to how my life was before. It was a massive change, but those rewards came through after years and years of dedication. I reaped the benefits from reaching the pinnacle of my career.
DID YOU TREAT YOURSELF IMMEDIATELY AFTER WINNING THE TWO GOLDS?
I bought some nice watches and things for the family, and I’ve been able to buy my mum a bungalow. I moved house and bought another house, which was nice, and I could buy better cars. It was really nice, but I’m a person who doesn’t really splash out exuberantly because I look at my money and I think, “this may not last forever”.
Olympic sports people don’t get what people assume. We don’t become instant multimillionaires. It’s a different world. Of course I did get a lot more because of the exposure I’ve had, but equally I’ve worked really damn hard for it since then as well. I do motivational speaking, I go to events, I do a mentoring in education programme. It’s not like it’s just handed to me.
HOW DOES YOUR INCOME BREAK DOWN BETWEEN YOUR PUBLIC SPEAKING, COMMERCIAL ENDORSEMENTS, BROADCASTING, WRITING AND YOUR BRANDED RETAIL RANGES?
I’ve been with BT for five years, which is really good. I’m their global ambassador, so that’s a great partnership. Also through public speaking, I do a lot more than I used to as people in business try to use analogies of sport to get the best out of their teams and there is a really strong correlation between business and sport.
I have my own fitness range with Tesco, which I get paid for on a royalties basis. I’ve done about four books over the years, so it’s all sorts of things. Then there are events where I’ll open shops and there’s fees from going on television. But, believe me, that doesn’t earn much; that’s more for exposure and just for people to see who you are, and obviously the back end of that is more exposure so people are interested in putting their brand to you.
ARE YOU A SAVER OR A SPENDER?
I don’t go splashing out. Like I say, I’ve got a house for my mum, but I do things with people and for people. My family and friends mean the world to me, so if I’m going on holiday I take some of my friends with me. That’s my biggest splash out, buying plane tickets for my friends. I don’t just buy something for the sake of it. I look at it and think, “things aren’t always forever”. You’ve got to think logically about what you do. My life and income will change because there are new stars born in sport and I’m a realist.
Because of the London Games, there have been more speaking engagements this year, but really what I do is run mentoring education programmes and try to build on my brand. So doing the clothing and the equipment is probably where I see the future of my income as opposed to sponsors, which will inevitably diminish – I’ll have to find other means of making a living. But that’s life.
HAVE YOU EVER HAD SERIOUS MONEY WORRIES OR DEBT PROBLEMS?
I don’t think I’ve ever worried because I’ve always looked at it and thought, “the less I have, the less I’ll spend”. At the end of the day, you can’t spend what you haven’t got. So you have to keep it in perspective. I would hate to be in the position where I just think, “Oh my God, I have not got anything”, because of course that’s not a nice position to be in. But equally, I’ve got a really nice house and if it came to the fact that I had to sell the house and get something else, that’s what I’d do. I’m a realist.
WHAT’S YOUR MOST TREASURED POSSESSION?
My two Olympic gold medals from the Athens Games in 2004.
ARE THEY INSURED FOR AN ASTRONOMICAL AMOUNT?
I don’t think there’s a price you can put on them. If they went missing you couldn’t get the same ones back, and they don’t do replicas – and even if they did, I don’t want a replica.
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR MOST EXTRAVAGANT PURCHASE?
My Range Rover Sport. I’m not normally extravagant, but I really wanted it so I thought, “I’m going to get it”.
DO YOU HAVE ANY INVESTMENTS?
I do invest in property. I do houses up in my so-called spare time. I rent out two houses in Kent and I’ve got another one I’ve just done up. They’re hobbies, I suppose, but I think investments are better in buildings than in banks.
ARE THE 2012 LONDON GAMES VALUE FOR MONEY?
What we spend on it we’re going to get double back in terms of tourism, exposure, development, legacy and infrastructure. And don’t forget that most of the money has come from sponsors. There are a lot of pluses to supporting an Olympic Games for economic reasons. There are a lot of companies who are able to put their brands behind it. So while there is a public amount of money spent on the Games, we should remember where the rest of the money comes from.
It’s happening and it’s here and it’s not going to go away, so we might as well all embrace it. There are always going to be some bah humbugs, but they can go on holiday if they want.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE LEAST ABOUT DEALING WITH MONEY?
Money can sometimes be a horrid, evil thing because people fall out over it. If you can use money for what it’s there for, to live or make life slightly easier, then that’s fine, but money can ruin relationships. It can make people less happy. They can become greedy. What money should never do is make you feel like you’re better than someone else. That’s not what money is about.
Catch up with Dame Kelly Holmes at BT London Live. To see who else will be there and what’s on offer, visit btlondonlive.com