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FANS GREET OUR HEROES: OLYMPIC DAME; Calls for Queen to honour Kelly as stars of Team GB arrive home.

Byline: REBECCA SMITH and NICK HENEGAN

OLYMPIC hero Kelly Holmes returned home in triumph last night to growing calls for her to be made a Dame.

Kelly led the way for Team GB by winning gold in the 800 and 1500 metres in Athens.

And last night the athletics world called for her magnificent performances on the track to be rewarded.

Former Olympic 10,000 metres bronze medallist Brendan Foster said: "She is the double Olympic champion - we've never had one like you before.

"The last British athlete that came close to it was Sebastian Coe and he ended up as Lord Coe. Surely we're going to call her Dame Kelly Holmes after that performance."

Kelly, 34, hugged her mother Pauline as she arrived at Gatwick with the rest of the British team to be greeted by 300 fans.

Team GB won 30 medals, including nine golds - the best tally for 20 years.

As a fan handed Kelly a red rose, she passed it to Pauline, who had stayed at home because she hates flying.

Kelly said: "She knows what I have been through, ups and downs, I nearly broke down when I saw her."

Pauline said: "It's a relief she has got success after all these years. She will still have her feet on the ground."

Kelly was full of praise for Team GB. She said: "We always felt we could do better than expected because the spirit in the camp is so strong.

"As long as we can maintain that then we can get even stronger in four years' time - even if I might not be there.

"A few people wrote us off this time and we responded and in four years' time we can come back even better and keep this going."

She also vowed to join the campaign to bring the Olympics to London in 2012. She said: "I will do everything I can to get the Games here. The whole experience was amazing. It is the biggest sporting event in the world and to bring it home would be fantastic."

Dean Macey, who finished fourth in the decathlon, echoed Kelly's hopes for 2008.

He said: "We'll come back stronger and even more determined in Beijing."

Awaiting Kelly was a surprise party with around 100 family and friends in Tonbridge, Kent, a mile from her home town of Hildenborough.

Team GB was led out into the arrivals hall by four times gold medallist Matthew Pinsent and the other three rowers of his coxless four boat - Ed Coode, James Cracknell and Steve Williams.

Pinsent welcomed suggestions of a victory parade through London.

He said: "It feels fantastic to be a British sporting success story."

Simon Clegg, chief executive of the British Olympic Association, said he believed the haul of medals and public support would give the London 2012 bid a crucial boost. The gold medal winning 4 x 100metre relay squad and boxing wonder boy Amir Khan, 17, who won silver, all got a huge cheer at Gatwick.

Khan insisted he would turn down big money offers to go professional and would take part in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

He said: "It has been brilliant for me. I really thought it would be just experience for the next Olympics but I got lots of experience and much more.

"When I go to Beijing I'll get the gold medal for Great Britain."

Proud Rachel Darby-Dowman, 29, was at the airport to meet brother Paul, who came seventh in the sprint canoeing.

Rachel, who was joined by their parents Ken and Anne, from Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, said: "It is a very proud moment for us, we are thrilled."

Olivia Dempsey, whose son Nick won a windsurfing bronze medal, said: "I'm very proud. I can't believe how many people are here. It's just fantastic."

Nick lives in Weymouth with sailing gold medallist Sarah Ayton. Olivia predicted a massive party in the town when the pair return home.

Sarah's mum Coleen and dad Brian, from Ashford, Middlesex, were also at Gatwick to greet the triumphant couple.

The girlfriend of gold medal-winning sailor Ben Ainslie said: "He's so happy, it has been his goal for four years and there was so much pressure on him."

Relay star Jason Gardener's partner Nancy Baker, 24, from Bath, was delighted to welcome the gold medallist home.

Cradling their five-month-old daughter Molly, she said: "I am very proud of him. "We couldn't travel out to the Games but I watched it on the TV. "I have watched the tape of the race more than 100 times and I still feel nervous even though I know the result."

CAPTION(S):

ALL GOLD: Winner Kelly; CHAMPIONS: Four times Olympic winner Matthew Pinsent and double gold medallist Kelly lead the team off the plane yesterday; FAN-TASTIC: Huge crowd greets Kelly at the airport
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 31, 2004
Words:804
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