Lake on her journey from high jump-hater to champion

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Morgan Lake in action during the women's high jump
Morgan Lake in action during the women's high jump

For someone who grew up not even liking the event she competes in, Morgan Lake hasn’t done too badly for herself.

The 22-year-old has cleaned up at the last four British Championships, scooping top prize in the women’s high jump on each occasion, as well as tenth place in the Rio Olympics in 2016.

But Lake had already made her impression on the athletics scene long before she focused solely on the Fosbury flop, with record-breaking performances in heptathlon.

As a 17-year-old, she took gold in the World Junior Championships with a score that would have seen her finish in the top 20 in London two years before, and at that point had no plans to change path.

“I used to hate high jump,” the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games silver medallist said. “I never really watched it, I didn’t really know about it. I only really did it because it was one of the events of the heptathlon.

“In 2014 I went to the European Championships and I had absolutely no clue who any of my competitors were because it wasn’t an event I was interested in.

“Looking back at that now I realise they were all top-level high jumpers, and I now watch videos of them from when they were in their prime.”

Since making the transition, Lake has gone from strength to strength, aided by the coaching of her father Eldon, himself a two-time English Schools Triple Jump Champion.

A number of niggling injuries contributed to a mixed season in 2019, with a personal-best equalling 1.97 jump in January followed by a disappointing World Championships in Doha in September, where she crashed out before the final.

But despite the temptation, Lake has her focus on just the one event as she aims to qualify for Tokyo 2020, rather than seven.

“I go through phases,” the Loughborough University student said. “When I was watching the heptathlon in Doha I was seeing people I used to compete against when I was younger.

“I always find it quite tough to watch and I’m always thinking ‘I want to go straight back to heptathlon’, and then I remember that it was quite hard.

“It was a lot on the body, and a lot mentally as well, but I did love the training. I wouldn’t say never [to a return], but at the moment I’m definitely just focusing on high jump.”

And if she ever were to go back to heptathlon, she would have the small matter of Katarina Johnson-Thompson to contend with, with the Liverpudlian taking gold in Doha at a canter.

And despite not being on top form herself in Qatar, Lake draws inspiration from KJT’s performances.

“With Kat, I’ve been with her at every major Championships since 2014, and I’ve seen her be in the most amazing shape and at the championships probably not perform to the levels she was expected to,” she added.

“Watching her [in Doha] was one of my highlights of the year, seeing how everything came together.

“She had a big change moving to France and a lot of people doubted that decision, so it was really nice to see her relaxed in the environment, knowing her worth and knowing how great an athlete she is.”

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