Interview with Dame Kelly Holmes

Category: Press Pack Article

Do I refer to you as Dame Colonel Kelly or Colonel Dame Kelly?

Officially it’s Colonel Dame Kelly, but you can call me Kelly!


Can you bake?

No. No. I’ve never baked.


You ran a café for a while, didn’t you?

Yeah, I had a coffee house for four years, but I did not bake there. I did the menus, but I didn’t make anything. I had chefs to do that, it definitely wasn’t me.


What are your strengths and weaknesses?

I’m hoping maybe a strength might be my flavours might be alright. That’s about it. I literally did one bake before I came here, and that was with somebody in my earhole, telling me what to do. So yes, it’s a very different experience. I’m really enjoying it, it’s a lot of fun. It’s like one of those pressures that’s not a stress pressure, it’s an adrenaline pressure. You know what I mean? You feel like “Oh my God, I’ve got to do something, I’ve got to turn something out or I’m a complete failure,” and you really want to do well.


In your athletics career, when the pressure was really on, you famously had a really strong focus. But here, you’ve got people coming over and talking to you with a camera the whole time. That must be odd!

Oh yeah. Because all you’ve got in your head is “Oh my God, I haven’t got time to speak to you! Time is running out.” When you’re running, that’s it, you’re in your own zone. You can’t afford to let yourself get distracted by other people. But on this, obviously you’re getting completely distracted, people are asking questions, you’re going through your recipe, you’re trying to talk, but your head’s somewhere else.


Aside from baking, do you do much cooking?

I do a little more at home now. I started in lockdown. We were sort of forced to, weren’t we? If you want to eat decent, then you’ve got to make something. So, I started doing a lot more. I can do fish, and I can do a curry, things like that. But when it comes to baking, it’s just so different. I just have no idea how long something needs to go in the oven for, or how long to whip something for. It’s so different. Whereas if you put a piece of fish in the oven, you can see if it’s cooked or not. It’s quite obvious. The process of baking is just so hard.


Have you ever had any culinary disasters?

Not really with my cooking. My food was okay. But baking… I’ve made two of the items that we’re doing in the show. But with somebody who knew what they were doing, so they were in my earhole telling me what to do. And then when I tried it at home without them – uh-uh. It didn’t resemble what it was meant to at all. That’s how bad it was. I didn’t even get to the end, because it collapsed.


Obviously, you’d never have scaled the Olympian heights without having a competitive spirit, but does that cross over to baking? How badly do you want to win this?

I feel like, over the years, I’ve learned to manage my expectations in certain areas. When I know something, then I feel confident. When I don’t know something, oh jeez. So, I’m my own worst enemy. I definitely put my own pressures on myself. I’m not massively competitive when it comes to cooking, because I’m noy good at it. However, I can’t play a board game without getting competitive, so there’s a bit of a mixture going on. So, part of me wants to win, but then there’s the realisation that I’d probably need another 20 years of practice for that to happen.


So, Celebrity Bake Off 2040 will be your year?

Maybe I won’t need quite that long. Give me, say, five years, and then once I come back, I’ll nail it.


Why is SU2C important to you?

I think it’s really important, in terms of getting people to realise that we can’t stop raising awareness and fundraising. Cancer is terrible, it affects so many people. And I have a personal reason – my mum passed away from myeloma three years ago. So, one of the dishes I’ve cooked was for my mother. And I think my mother would never, ever, ever have believed I’d come on a show like this, given she knew I don’t bake. And I support some existing cancer charities: The Pickering Cancer Trust, a local one in Tonbridge Wells. Myeloma UK. Because as the stats say, one in two people will get cancer in their lifetime, and that’s not a good stat.


You’ve written a book which is, in part, about nutrition and diet. Are all your bakes super healthy, or has that gone out the window for this?

No, I had to throw that out of the window. I don’t think healthy and baking really go together. I have to say, the amount of sugar and butter in baking is seriously not healthy. I’m sure there are some extraordinarily talented chefs who can tell me you can bake healthily, but all the evidence I have suggests otherwise. Everything is beyond the weekly calorie intake for one bake.


Is one of the joys of retirement that you can eat what you want? Are you still quite careful about what you eat?

No, I’m not! I think there was a point where I had to do everything to get the best out of myself. But not being an athlete anymore, I train now because I want to keep fit and feel fit, and look half decent, but I like my food as well. So, I think I train to combat those likings. I have a big sweet tooth. Chocolate and sweets. So, I justify that by training more.


So, your training is all just so you can have an extra Twix in the evening?

It’s partly that, and partly to motivate and inspire people that if I can still do what I do now, people realise that getting older can still mean there’s no stopping you. And I think mental health and physical health go side-by-side. So, keeping fit and focussed and happy are important. So, I use it for that too. I’ve still got the army mentality of train hard and do it well.