DAME KELLY HOLMES was surrounded by young fans when she opened a new boarding house at Queen Anne’s School in Caversham.
Watch our video of the Olympian's visit here
The retired middle distance runner, who won two Olympic gold medals at Athens in 2004, spent almost an hour signing autographs and chatting with pupils during her visit on Thursday last week.
She was at the all-girls’ independent secondary to open the £2.9 million Maddock House, which houses more than 70 junior pupils.
The afternoon began in the sports hall with a motivational speech in which 42-year-old Dame Kelly told her life story and gave the students advice on achieving their goals.
She told them: “You can all have a dream and you can all say, ‘What I do now, I just want to be the best that I can be at it’.
“Achieving your goal takes hard work, dedication and a belief that you can do it.
“I was lucky enough to have a great support network of people who believed that I could achieve gold at the Olympics and, after 20 years of dreaming, I achieved my goal.”
Afterwards, scores of pupils gathered outside Maddock House for the opening ceremony.
Some were carrying home-made banners and there were loud screams and cheers when Dame Kelly took a photograph of the crowd on her mobile phone to upload to her Twitter page.
She then unveiled a plaque at the front of the building and formally opened it by cutting a ribbon.
When the ceremony was over, the crowd surged forward to ask Dame Kelly to sign flyers and other memorabilia from the day. Before she left, she was presented with a bouquet of flowers by Maddock’s head of house Sinead McCarthy.
Headmistress Julia Harrington said: “We were thinking about who we’d like to open our new house and wanted it to be someone who’d fit with the ethos of the school. Dame Kelly was a natural choice because she espouses everything we believe — that you should always aim for the best, try hard and get up when you fall down.”
Dame Kelly said: “School is the first part of everyone’s lives and it has a massive impact and influence. Here at Queen Anne’s there is a huge amount of opportunities to excel. Of course, any school is there to teach people, whether that’s academic subjects or personal and life skills. It’s a very valuable part of your life.”
Dame Kelly joined the Army at 18 and became a physical training instructor. A keen athlete in early life, she returned to her childhood passion after being inspired by the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.
She won gold in the 800m and 1,500m at Athens and carried the British flag at the Olympic Games closing ceremony. She was was made a DBE the following year.
In 2010, she presented the prizes at Henley Royal Regatta, which she described as “fantastic” and “memorable”.