Athletics News

Morgan Lake and Robbie Grabarz team up ahead of Paris Olympics

Morgan Lake and Robbie Grabarz team up ahead of Paris Olympics

Robbie Grabarz was happy building staircases when he was asked to help coach the record-breaking high jumper Morgan Lake but the emergency arrangement could lead to major honours

Dropping his beloved skateboard by his feet as he flops down on to a sofa in the Loughborough Students’ Union, it is like Robbie Grabarz has never been away.

For much of his adult life – the decade that saw him win Olympic, world and European medals –the East Midlands university campus was Grabarz’s second home. But he thought those days were long behind him; he made a conscious effort to make it so, which is why his presence on a bitterly cold January morning requires some explanation.

As does that of Morgan Lake sat alongside him. Two of the finest high jumpers Britain has ever produced, united in the unlikeliest of partnerships.

“It happened out of necessity,” says Grabarz, with a laugh. “It’s a hobby that I didn’t really need.” Lake chips in, candidly admitting: “It wasn’t a choice, but it’s gone well.”

It all started with a frantic phone call in July 2021. At that point, Grabarz was as removed from athletics as possible, having “just disappeared out of the sport” upon retirement from his competitive high jump career in 2018.

So when Olympic-bound Emily Borthwick’s number flashed up on his phone while he was upside down installing a staircase on a building site, he thought it must be important.

Borthwick and Lake had a pressing issue. With the Tokyo Games just weeks away, they had just been told that their coach Fuzz Caan was suspended and would not be travelling to Japan. Detail was thin on the ground and time in short supply. They needed someone to oversee them, hence Borthwick’s SOS call to a man who Caan had previously guided to the top of the athletics pyramid.

Robbie Grabarz (Mark Shearman)

Back when he called time on his competitive career, Grabarz had been physically and mentally broken. He needed to get away from the sport that had consumed him. So, after a few months eating, drinking, pottering and tending to his garden, he began working with his brother-in-law manufacturing and installing luxury staircases.

Only after about 18 months did he even start to watch athletics again, mainly just keeping tabs on the friends and training partners he had made along the way. Lake was one of them.

When an understandably upset Borthwick asked if Grabarz was available to help out with some pre-Olympics coaching, he felt could not say…

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