To appreciate how high Morgan Lake, the first British women to reach an Olympic high-jump final can soar, imagine that you’re balancing a standard 15cm ruler vertically on top of your head. The ruler has a few extra millimetres at each end, so its uppermost edge will be about 16cm from your skull. Lake is 1.80m tall, and when she set her personal best in Birmingham last July – at Team GB’s trials for the World Championships – the bar was set at 1.96m. That’s about the same height as Kobe Bryant, Usain Bolt and Dwayne Johnson.
High jump requires grace, explosive power and precision in a combination demanded by no other sporting discipline. Lake makes it look easy. Still only 20, she is a veteran of two World Championships and an Olympic final. A couple of months after turning 17 in 2014, she won gold in high jump and heptathlon at the World Junior Championships; soon after, she represented her country at senior level in both events.
Lake has taken some of the pressure off by ditching heptathlon but with psychology playing a huge part in sporting success these days, she has opted to spend more time away from the training pitch and has instead opted to study a subject that will pay dividends in a variety of ways and is now in the second year of a psychology degree.
“I think I wanted a distraction,” says Lake of her decision to study during her sporting career. “That way, I wouldn’t focus on training the whole time. I have enough time in my day to do my degree and my sport – though not as much time
as I wish I had. I would say I’m coping, but I try not to think too much about how little time I have. The best thing is to try to enjoy both, which I am.”
Psychology has long been an interest of Lake’s. Studying it now, she says, is “really beneficial to my sport. I definitely feel I’ve gained a mental edge”. “I’m doing a general psychology degree, but there are a few sports psychology modules. Some things that have been really useful are working on imagery and use of relaxation. Hopefully I haven’t taken too much on board from the stuff we’ve done on psychopaths.”
Instead, she uses her studies to help channel nerves in a postive way and help her focus on future success.
Lake, who was coached by her father, Eldon, a former English schools triple-jump champion whose career was curtailed by injury at 18, displayed a sporting talent early.
“I started sport when I was five,” says Lake. “Well, I know that I did, but I can’t really remember it specifically. I can’t remember
a time when I wasn’t doing sport. At 10, I was doing standing long jump and running races at an athletics club. At first, my parents just took me and my brother down there for something to do. I did
a lot of other things, too – such as swimming, netball and hockey – and I loved them all, but they were always second to athletics.”
She puts here success down to “natural talent” and sheer enjoyment.
“My dad loving the sport rubbed off on me, and I found my own passion. That kept me in it, and I suppose it meant I tried harder than other people.”
She has now switched coaches and says she needed a changed, adding “He’s really close to my current coach [Fuzz Caan] and still has a big impact on me and what I do. He’s my dad and he’ll be at every competition.”
Follow Morgan on Twitter: @morgan_a_lake
For more on Morgan, check out this month’s edition of The Red Bulletin. Subscribe or buy the current issue of The Red Bulletin here, (www.newsstand.co.uk/theredbulletin) or visit The Red Bulletin. (https://www.redbull.com/gb-en/theredbulletin) It is also available with the London Evening Standard newspaper, at London Underground stations, in selected gyms and lifestyle stores and at airports, hotels and universities from the second Tuesday of the month.