Feature30 Jul 2014

Lake superior to heptathlon and high jump rivals


High jump winner Morgan Lake at the IAAF World Junior Championships, Oregon 2014 (© Getty Images)

Morgan Lake looked far less drained after eleven high jump approaches than she did after a two-day heptathlon.

“I’ve had some ice baths, did a bit of shopping, relaxing and making sure I was in the right mind-set to compete,” she said of the recovery process between the heptathlon’s conclusion on Wednesday and the high jump final on Sunday.

Lake’s second victory was Great Britain’s first high jump gold at the World Juniors since Steve Smith in 1992, and their first women’s medal in the event since 1990.

While combined events athletes have doubled back to win gold in single events before, Lake is the first to double with the high jump at a global level since Harold Osborn at the 1924 Olympics in Paris (Osborn won his high jump medal before returning to win the decathlon) and the first female in history to achieve such a feat.

The second win was much easier, Lake explained, but different from the heptathlon high jump. “It was kind of hard to have qualifying; I haven't done that before, to have qualifying and then a final, with a break.”

Lake noted one other difference between the heptathlon and the high jump when describing a lower-height miss early in the competition. “I'm not often in the position where I have to get my first height in because of count-back. I tried to rush over. It happens quite often that I miss one because I take it too easy, mentally.

“I think the competitions were about the same. The conditions were better today, so it was a bit easier to jump today than it was in the heptathlon.”

Despite the favourable conditions, Lake’s winning clearance of 1.93m in the high jump was slightly lower than the 1.94m clearance she achieved in the heptathlon, a height which launched her to the top of the standings in the seven-discipline event. Either mark would have won all world junior high jump titles since 2004.

Lake made three attempts at 1.97m, which would have been a British senior record had she succeeded.

The 1.94m clearance was her best ever, and combined with another best in the javelin, at 41.66m, put her in position to win the heptathlon.

Nonetheless, Lake said: “The high jump was a surprise today.

“I think in the heptathlon, you keep going for two days, aiming towards a title. The high jump was over in an hour or so.

“In the past two years [the high jump has] been my favourite event [of the seven in the heptathlon]. The high jump is a hero event, so for the last two years I've been focusing on that.

“I like how it's predictable. You have the same run-up every time, so you know where you are.”

The successful junior double gave Lake more to think about. “My main focus was the heptathlon at first. It wasn't until later that I thought I'd try the high jump too. If the timetable allows it, I'll do this double again. Normally they clash. But if I could do it in good form, I'd do it.”

Lake’s next competition will be the last of her season. “I'll just do the high jump at the European Championships [in Zurich in August]. That will be it for me.

“I haven't done as many competitions as usual this year,” she continued. “I normally do more in April.”

The composed, confident Lake is at odds with the mental picture of a 17-year-old who will still be eligible for junior competition when the championships return in Kazan in 2016. Yet Lake was still a precocious 16 at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Donetsk in 2013, leading at the end of the first day. Her second day wasn’t quite together in Donetsk; a disappointing long jump and javelin dropped her to sixth, and she didn’t start the 800m.

The javelin performance in Eugene showed that the lessons of Donetsk were well learned by Lake. Not only did she better the defending junior champion, Yorgelis Rodriguez of Cuba, but also the world youth champion, Celina Leffler of Germany, who finished fourth in Eugene.

“I don't think much about age,” she explained. “I think about all the training I've done.”

Despite Lake’s composure, she professed surprise with her double in Eugene. “I still can't really get over it. I didn't think I'd get a medal here, maybe in two years’ time [at the 2016 World Juniors in Kazan], but to get two medals at this championship, I'm really happy.”

Parker Morse for the IAAF