Kelly Holmes
Kelly Holmes says if you have a talent you should 'go for it' (Getty)

She is an Olympic champion who has set British records in several disciplines but Dame Kelly Holmes has admitted that women still face numerous hurdles when pursuing a career in sports.

Speaking to IBTimes UK's A-list at the press launch of the new Bend It Like Beckham musical, based on the 2002 film, the retired middle-distance runner said that despite women making strides in various sports including tennis, football and athletics, negative stereotypes were still hard to break.

"Sports always had this thing around woman's sport and whether it gets the recognition that it should get," she said of the struggle to be taken as seriously as their male counterparts.

Holmes joined a star-studded crowd which included Graham Norton, Lily Collins and Indira Varma at the opening night the musical, which like the original film, tells the story of Jess, the 18-year-old footie-mad daughter of a Sikh family living in Southall, west London, whose dream of playing the beautiful game clashes with the cultural beliefs of her parents.

The 45-year-old Olympian believes that more shows with a positive message about woman and sports are essential because they provide an inspiration that many wannabe athletes so desperately need. Like many who are enthused about England's performance in the Women's World Cup, she appreciates the impeccable timing of the show's West End debut.

"In 2001 all of this subtle messaging going on throughout was quite powerful, for then, if you think about it. Especially woman's sports wasn't so high profile until we had the Olympic games over here," she explained.

While she is hopeful that things will change for the better, she is still of the opinion that support from a team is needed to be an individual.

"As a sportsperson I know what it feels like to have that burning desire to do something so you feel very emotional when somebody can't try and achieve it. And, on the other hand, when they do you know what it feels like.

So what is her advice to female athletes? Simple: It will be hard, but do it anyway.

"The people that are successful are the ones that say: 'I'm going to do it anyway.' That's the thing, you do have to have a lot of guts.

"If you've got a talent you should never ever just dismiss that. There is nothing worse than living with regrets."