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For someone who spends most of her time in the air, 24-year-old high jumper Morgan Lake is surprisingly grounded. With just a few weeks to go until the Milton Keynes-born champion competes for Team GB at the Tokyo Olympics, she is certainly raising the bar, in more ways than one. Athlete, student, body-positivity activist, and Technogym ambassador, Lake gives it her all. And that hard work ethic has certainly paid off, with the opportunity to represent her country once again "a dream come true", she told POPSUGAR.
"After everything that has gone on this past year the games finally feel almost tangible. I can't believe we are nearly there — particularly after all the setbacks we have had, but I have trained my mind to be calm and just count each day as it comes," Lake said.
This self-possessed approach is pretty impressive for someone so young (and for someone who has every right to be jumping for joy). Particularly as, when I interviewed her via Zoom in her Loughborough student home, Lake was once again back in self-isolation — a requirement following her return from a work event in Italy. Surely that must be difficult with just weeks to go now until the games kick off?
Image Source: Technogym
"No, it's fine," she told me. "I've grown up such a lot since the Rio Olympics and so much has changed with my preparation techniques for Tokyo, in particular my mindset. I have learnt about how knock-backs can make you stronger and how to focus on just the positive things."
With such high expectations for Lake to succeed, she pointed to her coaches and management team as the driving forces keeping her focused. "I'm so lucky that I am surrounded by a team that are interested not only in getting me in peak shape in my body, but my mind too. That is so important for an athlete."
"Whenever I find the going tough, I always think back to my youth and why I did this in the first place. The answer is always because I love what I do."
And then there is her family of course. As someone who is very close to her parents, she explained that it's really hard to know they won't be with her in Tokyo. "Thank goodness for FaceTime, and I know my family will be running around to ensure they watch me in every event."
On the subject of running, I was keen to know how Lake is able to train in self-isolation. "We are lucky, as athletes we are given permission to use the track and outdoor space," she said. And being an ambassador for Technogym (which has been appointed as the official supplier of fitness equipment to the Olympic and Paralympic Games for the eighth year) means she has the brand's weights and training bike at home.
"Those machines are amazing, as they really help build my cardio strength, but high jumping also involves different kind of exercises to the norm," Lake explained. These include plyometrics (explosive jump exercises), as well as shorter sprints that are fast, reactive, and powerful. And then there are exercises like high-box step-ups, reactive jumps, and leg presses.
Image Source: Technogym
Olympics aside, Lake has already achieved so much. Having won five consecutive British high-jumping titles and taken silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, she definitely has her head in the game, but does she ever have doubts about not winning, or worse, getting injured? "I've learnt not to look too far ahead and enjoy the now. Whenever I find the going tough, I always think back to my youth and why I did this in the first place. The answer is always because I love what I do," she said.
Being an athlete must be hard at the best of times, but for Lake — who is also juggling her studies — it must be extremely challenging. "Loughborough is really good as they let you do a split degree, so a lot of athletes do a three-year course over a few years. It means I am not stressed by fitting both in. It is a very unusual university life."
"Some people still believe athletes are only interested in sport, but that's not true. It's important to have a voice and show to youngsters that you can speak up for what you believe in."
As with all athletes, getting enough sleep is important — even without COVID restrictions — so I doubted very much Lake would be living it up at all-night student parties. "I have to pinch myself in excitement at the thought I am soon in Tokyo," she said. "And if anything good came out of the pandemic and lockdown it was the fact as athletes we were gifted something we don't normally have, and that is time."
As well as home and park workouts, the extra hours gave Lake a chance to use her large large social media platforms to speak out about important topics close to her heart, such as the importance of body positivity and the Black Lives Matter movement. In doing so, she found herself looking at her own experiences growing up as a young athlete.
"Some people still believe athletes are only interested in sport, but that's not true. It's important to have a voice and show to youngsters that you can speak up for what you believe in," she said. "I often get asked by young kids how they can get into the sports world, and I tell them to just follow their dreams and aim high."
To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit TeamGB.com. Watch the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer on BBC One and BBC Two.