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The UK’s Olympic gold medalist champion, Dame Kelly Holmes has spoken of her relief after coming out as gay.

Kelly announced that she is gay, saying she “needed to do this now.”

The 52-year-old, who won gold in the 800 and 1,500 meters at the 2004 Games in Athens, revealed she had known she was gay since she was 17 after kissing a fellow female soldier, and that her family and friends have known since 1997. Kelly also revealed how she struggled with her mental health because of having to hide her sexuality, and that she had to keep several same-sex relationships she had during her service in the Women’s Royal Army Corps secret, in fear of being court-martialed.

Up until 2000, it was illegal for gay, lesbian and bisexual people to serve in the British armed forces.

Kelly said a brush with COVID-19 made her realize that she wanted to show the world her ‘real self.’

“I needed to do this now, for me,” she told the Sunday Mirror newspaper. “It was my decision. I’m nervous about saying it. I feel like I’m going to explode with excitement.”

Sometimes I cry with relief. The moment this comes out, I’m essentially getting rid of that fear.

Dame Kelly Holmes

Kelly explained that she had contacted a military LGBTQ+ leader in 2020 to check if she could be sanctioned for breaking army rules and was told she wouldn’t be. She recalled, “I felt like I could breathe again, one little call could have saved 28 years of heartache.”

Kelly has now begun to make a documentary about her experiences called Being Me, where she talks to LGBTQ+ soldiers about their lives in the military today.

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