Morgan Lake talks coaching, technique, and chasing 2 meters

In 2021, Morgan Lake found herself without a coach as her existing coach was suspended. She asked Robbie Grabarz – a former Olympic silver medallist – to help her to the Tokyo Games.  What started as seeing him once or twice a week developed into him being her coach in 2022

Morgan says of their working relationship: “Obviously, he’s got that championship mindset, having won an Olympic medal and being a European champion. He’s been there and done it, and I think for me it’s then easier for me to be able to give over that trust is really because I’m thinking, ‘OK, he’s done it before,’ and that he wouldn’t have me do something which he didn’t think worked. So, I think the trust element is a really big thing for the mindset of going to a championship. Just the fact that it has to be a little bit different to any other competition.  It’s: ‘Where can you find those little gains when you get to the championships?’ Many girls will be jumping the same heights, be it similar level, or how you keep calm and relaxed through those championships.

Morgan Lake, photo by Getty Images for British Athletics

“And for me, one of the biggest things that Robbie helped me with last season was being calm at the majors. I got my opening high on the third attempt in qualifying in Budapest, which was such a nerve-wracking moment, but for that third attempt, he said, ‘Just breathe and stay calm and just jump it.’ And I think after that I was OK. I’m making it out to be a big thing, and so much pressure that it is just a high jump at the end of the day. You’re it’s doing the same thing you practice to do. So, I think mentality is the biggest thing”.

Robbie Graberz, photo by Martin Bateman

I love it when you ask a field athlete about their technique, and they look like they could talk about it all day! Morgan had a lot to say about technique and training. “My technique has changed a lot, and I didn’t really realize it, but I was looking back at videos from the Rio Olympics, and I was unrecognizable. At that time, I went off a rolling start; I call it a short approach now. That’s a good rolling 8-7 or eight stride approach.  My running looks different. I was training as a heptathlete in 2016, so I didn’t have as much time to work on the technical side of the run-up. It was pretty much just pure speed and power, but now I think it’s a lot more about rhythm, and I guess I just have more time to work on that technical element. I didn’t realize it had changed that much. But it definitely has.  Even looking back at 2018, when I decided to go from a standing 10-stride approach, just the way I attack bars now is so different from back then, and that’s when I got my silver medal in the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast. So, I didn’t realize how much it changed until I looked back over the years, but it definitely has.

LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 22: Morgan Lake of Great Britain competes in the Women’s High Jump during Day Two of the Muller Anniversary Games at London Stadium on July 22, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by S Bardens – British Athletics/British Athletics via Getty Images)

“In winter, my training is super varied, almost like heptathlon training. So we’ll do longer endurance grass runs, a lot of aerobic work, first thing just to get our fitness up, general conditioning and hurdles. I like winter training.  Then, once we start jumping, I will probably jump about twice a week and do S&C three times a week. And then I do bounding plyometric stuff with Aston Moore and the long jumpers – including Jazz Sawyers and KJT – once a week. So, it is pretty nice and varied, and it’s not all about just the technical side of the high jump.  When it comes to summer, it’s a lot more focused on the skill of the high jump”.

For women high jumpers, 2m is the holy grail.  Morgan has been close but has not quite got there.  The nearest was 1.99 indoors in Hustopeče, Czech Republic, last year.  She has cleared 1.97 four times, including for 4th place in the 2023 World Champs, and done three 1.95s, including the 2017 London World Champs.  She did 1.95 at the Tokyo Olympics qualifying but could not compete in the final.  How close does she think she is to 2m – and does it matter?

Morgan Lake, photo by Getty Images for British Athletics

“It’s a weird one.  I think as soon as I jumped 1.90 when I was, I think,16, I’ve been, ‘right. The next goal is 2 meters. For the last 10-11 years, I’ve thought I could jump 2 meters. And I mean, every single year, I think I’m close. Last year was definitely the closest I’ve come to it with the 1.99; I had a few attempts at 2:01. I think I may have attempted it twice or thrice last season, and it never felt like I wasn’t close. I think it’s one of those things that will happen naturally. I think it’s one of those things that will occur in a championship or in a high-level competition where I’m not chasing it. When I’m just trying to try to win. I’m trying to medal. And I know that to be up there, I will have to jump those heights. I do think it’s definitely in me. It’s just more a case of when? Because the difference between 1.99 and two meters is absolutely nothing. Just gotta get through the heights. This time last year I was maybe chasing it too much, so I’d almost be thinking about jumping 2 metres before I even cleared 1.90.  You can pick any height in the high jump and pole vault. You could just go into a competition, start at 2 meters, and take 3 attempts! I think it’s one thing that’s gonna have to happen.

In 2014, Morgan won gold in the World U20 heptathlon and came sixth in the World Indoors Pentathlon. I wondered if she fancied a crack at the Olympic heptathlon and high jump in Paris: “They’re on the same day. So it might be a bit hard!”

Morgan Lake, photo by Getty Images for British Athletics

She added: “There were definitely a few years where I was really rethinking if I had made the right decision just to do the high jump: or should I return to the heptathlon?  I’ve been really happy with my decision for the last couple of years. But I’ve always said I’d love to do a pentathlon again. I think doing a full heptathlon would be a bit difficult, but doing a pentathlon again, maybe next year or the year after, once Paris is out of the way. Just because the pentathlon training is a lot easier. Well, it’s not easier, but it’s better for my high jump when it’s 60 hurdles, or javelin and 200m. The short power training would only ever help my high jump. So I may do a pentathlon one day, but probably not to the level I’ve been at on the world stage”.

Morgan Lake, photo by Getty Images for British Athletics