Athletics: Hollman Relishing Olympic Chance after Paying Her Dues; Brian Dick Meets an Athlete Hoping for One Final Hurrah in the Beijing Olympics
Byline: Brian Dick
Birchfield Harriers have a female athlete heading to the Olympic Games to take part in the last heptathlon of her career before she reinvents herself as a long jumper. Her name is not Kelly Sotherton.
Indeed the similarities between Sotherton, one of Britain's brightest medal hopes next month, and her club-mate Julie Hollman, who is anything but, are startling.
Both compete for the city's top athletics club, both put themselves through the emotional and physical mangle that are the multi-events, both are in their early 30s and - crucially - both are off to Beijing in a few weeks' time.
There are, however, some telling differences too. Sotherton travels to China looking to improve on the bronze medal she won in Athens; barring a well-timed and well-directed bout of food poisoning, the nearest Hollman will get to the podium will be when she passes it during the 800 metres.
And perhaps more importantly Sotherton's passage has been aided, quite justly, by the funding and wraparound support network she receives from UK Athletics. As an Olympic, world and Commonwealth medal-winner she should expect nothing less.
The spoon in Hollman's mouth is not so silver, certainly not gold and not even bronze. As she heads off to the Far East for the proudest moment in her career, the 31-year-old from Great Barr does so knowing she has paid for everything but the flight.
She spends 30 hours a week toiling as an administrator at the High Performance Centre, situated at the Alexander Stadium, and fits in her athletics preparation only after she's done an honest day's work.
"Do we train together? No. Kelly is just finishing her second session and heading off home when I am starting my first," Hollman says. "I walk straight out of the office and into the HPC. I don't get back until about sevenish."
If Hollman is time poor compared to Sotherton, that situation is only more marked in terms of financial backing.
"I've never had anything by way of funding except for last year when I got the qualifying standard I was covered by UKA's medical insurance in case I needed scans or anything but that's it. Everything else I pay for. I can't really afford to do this sport. I don't know how much it costs me. Sixty pounds a week to go to London to see my coach for the weekend during the winter, pounds 30 a week massage, pounds 30 a week physio and petrol money to Shrewsbury to get it.
"I should probably work out how much I spend just to see how big my debts are. I'll do that after Beijing because it might be a bit of a shock. …