Poised to compete in the pentathlon in Prague, 17-year-old Morgan Lake looks destined to continue Britain’s fine tradition in combined events
Britain has a rich history in women’s combined events, with Mary Peters taking Olympic glory in 1972, Denise Lewis claiming the title in 2000, Jessica Ennis-Hill capturing the hearts of the public with her London 2012 victory and now Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Morgan Lake.
For latest AW cover star Lake it is early days, but comparisons have already been made with Ennis-Hill, particularly due to the Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow athlete’s ability in the high jump, which saw her break the British junior record with a clearance of 1.94m last year.
However, it could be argued that Lake’s throwing talents far outweigh the Olympic champion’s at a similar age. As a junior, Ennis-Hill had a best of only 12.26m for the shot put, whereas Lake has already thrown 14.85m and also 41.66m in the javelin, the latter a distance that Ennis-Hill did not better in a heptathlon until 2009 when she went on to win the world heptathlon title in Berlin.
Lake is arguably helped by her almost 6ft frame, but this should not detract anything from the quality of her performances, as she nevertheless high jumps more than 10cm over her head height. Moreover, after winning double world junior gold in the high jump and heptathlon in Eugene last year, Lake has shown she has the mental capacity on her tall shoulders to perform to her best on the global stage.
Reflecting on the World Juniors, where she set a world under-18 heptathlon best with 6148 points to go with the world under-18 indoor pentathlon record she had set earlier in the year with 4284 points, the youngster reveals: “Being able to compete in a World Junior Championships, especially in Eugene, Oregon, was in itself a very magical experience.
“Hayward Field is a great stadium to compete in and I really enjoyed being in the USA and meeting some unforgettable people.
“The whole experience was amazing and winning double gold is to date my proudest moment. It has motivated me to make the team for future championships.”
Having contested the high jump at the European Championships in Zurich last summer, Lake now lines up as a part of the pentathlon field for the event’s indoor equivalent.
Reflecting on her Zurich experience, she says: “It was surreal being on a team with people I have looked up to throughout my life. It has made me hungry for more.”
Johnson-Thompson joins Lake in Prague where on Friday the pair are set to face the likes of Netherlands’ world indoor champion Nadine Broersen, Belgium’s European heptathlon bronze medallist Nafissatou Thiam and France’s two-time European pentathlon champion Antoinette Nana Djimou.
Lake is supported by a strong team – her father, Eldon, is her main coach, while Jeremy Tigar coaches her for throws, Richard Aspden for high jump and Ian Grant for hurdles.
She has also recently partnered up with the GSK Human Performance Lab, which also works with the likes of six-time Paralympic gold medallist David Weir and triathletes Alistair and Jonny Brownlee.
The GSK HPL carries out research with elite athletes to better understand how the body and brain function. This allows its scientists to help develop improved training, recovery, nutrition and competition programmes.
“This feels like a step forward for me,” Lake says of the partnership. “I’m grateful to have support from these top scientists.
“I hope knowing the science behind my performance will give me an edge in the future. The facility is amazing, it’s very cool.”
So far, Lake is quite literally following in Ennis-Hill and Johnson-Thompson’s footsteps, not only in terms of her rate of progress, but also earlier this year she led the GB team at a combined events indoor international in France, an event both Ennis-Hill and Johnson-Thompson participated in during the past. She won with 4448 – just 78 points short of Johnson-Thompson’s UK under-20 best.
With the World Championships scheduled to take place in Beijing and the European Junior Championships in Sweden this summer, Lake is hoping to take part in both. “I know that I will have to have a good winter and work hard in order to achieve these goals,” she says modestly.
» For a more in-depth five-page feature on Morgan Lake see the March 5 edition of AW magazine which also includes 14 pages of pre-Euro Indoors content. It’s available in shops now or digitally here