THE owner of a York restaurant has told of his excitement after double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes walked in for a meal.

Raj Ahmad, who has run the Raj in Bootham for just over a year, said he was keen on athletics and immediately recognised the retired British middle-distance athlete, who won two gold medals at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

“I asked her why she had chosen the Raj to dine and she said she had come to the area for a wedding and was looking around York.

“She said she had looked on Trip Advisor – the travel website which carries reviews of travel-related matters including restaurants – and seen we had good reviews. I felt over the moon.”

He said Dame Kelly agreed to pose for a picture with him and then, as word spread that she was being served in a room at the restaurant, excited diners began to queue up to ask if she would mind being pictured with them, and she was happy to oblige.

Dame Kelly, who specialised in the 800 metres and 1500 metres, has long-standing connections with York, having served as an army PT instructor at Imphal Barracks in Fulford Road between 1989 and 1993.

She turned to the professional athletics circuit in the early 1990s and achieved success at European and World Championships and Commonwealth Games before taking part in her final major championship in 2004 at the Athens Olympics, finishing as the 800- metre and 1,500-metre champion.

She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2005, when she retired from athletics.