The Ron Pickering Memorial Award for Services to Athletics, awarded annually by the British Athletics Writers Association was this year […]
John LaneApril 3, 2014
Life in the fast Lane for John
With a tanned body and distinctive Aussie accent, UK heptathlon indoor record-holder John Lane could be confused for an Australian living in Sheffield. However, after the 25-year-old’s breakthrough this winter, which saw him score 5982 for the indoor seven-event challenge, British-born Lane has his sights set on representing England in the decathlon at this year’s Commonwealth Games and European Championships.
Lane moved to Australia aged three due to his dad’s job and spent his childhood surfing the waves every morning Down Under, only moving back to Britain in 2009. “It took a while to get used to not having a beach!” he says. “I moved around a bit as a youngster and also lived in the USA, but my mum is from Manchester and my dad originates from Birmingham, so it is safe to say I feel British. I am happy to now be back in the UK and I always feel proud to pull on my GB vest.”
Indeed, the City of Sheffield athlete has already had plenty of occasions to wear his national colours and his British indoor record came when on international duty earlier this year. On home turf at the EIS in Sheffield, he enjoyed a consistent two days of competition to win the International Combined Events match, but even the ambitious athlete himself had not expected to break the 19-year-old national record belonging to twice Olympian Alex Kruger.
“It was genuinely a shock,” he says. “I had always hoped I might be good enough to have a crack at it in the future, but didn’t think I would do it this year. I didn’t have any particularly outstanding events that weekend, but was consistent across all seven and that eventually saw me come home four points ahead of the previous record.
Since relocating to the north of England five years ago, Lane has been training with Toni Minichiello at the EIS in Sheffield. Having already produced an Olympic champion as coach to Jess Ennis, arguably there would be few individuals more aptly qualified than Minichiello to guide Lane on his path to become one of the world’s elite decathletes.
“Training with Toni and Jess has had a massive influence on me. Not every athlete can say they train with an Olympic athlete every day! Watching Jess leading up to London 2012 and training alongside her has inspired me to fulfil my abilities and give athletics everything I have to offer,” reveals Lane.
With so many events, training for any elite decathlete is physically gruelling and mentally challenging and Lane trains four or five hours a day, six days a week – almost 30 hours a week.
Typically, Minichiello will plan training to include each event at least twice a week and technical training tends to be done in the morning, alongside running and conditioning sessions.
Often considered the strongest athletes due to their all-round athleticism, it is no surprise such emphasis is placed on weights sessions, which Lane will complete three times a week in addition to his specific decathlon training. However, full of trust for his coach, Lane explains that he leaves it to Minichiello to plan the training schedule. “We normally train 9.30am-12.30pm and 2-4pm, with one rest day a week.
“We try and prioritise different events at different points of the year, especially if I am learning a new technique or something isn’t going so well at a particular time. However, I just stick to the plan that Toni sets!” reveals Lane.
Despite his expertise, Minichiello is not afraid to draft in event specialists in order to ensure his charges have access to the best coaching. Although Minichiello covers most events with his athletes at the EIS, Lane does pole vault with Mark Johnson at South Leeds Stadium and goes to Mick Hill at Leeds Met University for javelin.
Having come to decathlon relatively late, Lane’s best year was last year when he scored 7916 to go to seventh on the UK all-time list and he feels this achievement played a significant role in his success this winter.
“Last year proved to me that I could possibly go on and break 8000 points. It gave me a lot of confidence and I think this helped me carry my improvement into 2014. I have had a great winter training and indoor season and I hope that 2014 can be a good year,” explains Lane.
In addition to qualifying for his first senior international championships in the form of the Commonwealth Games and European Championships, Lane has set a target of finishing the season ranked No.1 in the UK indoors and outdoors and scoring as close to 8200 points as he can. Long term, he hopes to qualify for the European Indoors and World Championships outdoors next year, before progressing to gain selection for the World Indoors and Rio Olympics in 2016.
When speaking of his Olympic aspirations, Lane is quick to reveal how he hopes being chosen to receive the Jean Pickering grant as one of the five young Olympic hopefuls, together with the support from the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund will help him in his quest to realise his ambition.
“It feels amazing to be picked for this award. As a decathlete, I do ten events, which results in high costs in terms of buying equipment. I also feel the money will help me develop as an athlete in the sense that I can put it towards medical support such as physio and massage, as well as using it to fund travel to competitions in the UK and in Europe,” explains Lane.
“My parents do what they can to support my athletics, but my father lives and works in America and my mother is in Australia. I always worked through school and do some athletics coaching when I can fit it in, but this grant will go a long way to helping me concentrate solely on my training.”
Although he has not been in decathlon many years, Lane’s background is in elite sport as a rugby union player and having had two shoulder operations in the last five years, he is well aware of the demands it places on the body. In Australia, he also spent his time swimming, surf lifesaving and playing football.
“I was twice Nutri-Grain national junior surf lifesaving beach champion and I also represented Australia at the world schools’ rugby championships in Japan,” says Lane.
Indeed, this Jean Pickering grant is not the first award Lane has won, since he was awarded the Pierre de Coubertin prize at school to mark his academic and sporting achievements. This prize recognises Olympic values, which Lane hopes he will one day be able to experience first-hand.
At this time, Lane would only go to the track twice a week to work on his speed and power for his other sports. However, even in those days he was able to benefit from the coaches of an Olympic champion, as he worked with Sharron and Peter Hannan, coaches to 2012 Olympic 100m hurdles champion Sally Pearson.
This early athletics training is now paying dividends, as Lane’s strengths in decathlon remain in the sprinting and jumping events due to his speed and power. But there is no question over his favourite event. “I love pole vault,” he says. “You have to commit 100% to every jump and it can so easily go wrong, so it is definitely a challenge,” he adds.
However, he has no intention to specialise in one event. “What I like about decathlon is that you have to be good at a number of skills and movements to be competitive across the ten events. The two-day competition format also poses an additional challenge,” he explains.
Lane’s first decathlon of 2014 is planned in Gotzis at the end of May. Reflecting upon combined events in the UK, he says: “Decathlon is definitely on the rise. There are four or five guys who are going to be trying to gain selection for the Commonwealths and Europeans this year. I hope one is me.”