Athlete Feature 21 - Chris Lambert - USA Athletics Scholarships

Athlete Feature 21 – Chris Lambert


This week we spoke to former Harvard and Ivy League standout Chris Lambert. Chris holds both sprint school records for the Crimson.  He is a former European U23 and World Student Games champion. He talks about his collegiate career, and Facebook.

tbUSA – Chris. You attended Harvard from 1999-2003. How did that opportunity come about? Internet rumours suggest you were rejected by Cambridge, UK, but ended up in Cambridge, MA. Is this true?

CL– Almost true. I did apply to Oxford unsuccessfully.  Harvard were interested in more than just my academic abilities and want to know what students can bring to the table so the coach wrote me to basically saying that my athletic ability interested them and that if I felt I could stand the academic pace then they would encourage me to apply.

Chris Lambert in action for Harvard

tbUSA – You’re not the first Harvard student-athlete we’ve interviewed. Adam Cotton is in his freshman year, and he alluded that the ‘lure of Harvard’ was greater than that of the NCAA. What were your goals leaving for Harvard? Were they purely athletic, academic or both?

CL – Mostly academic.  You can’t run forever and I felt I was at a stage in my career where I could put work in for my future without hindering my athletic development too much.

tbUSA – How did you find you adapted to the life as a student-athlete there? Many athletes in the NCAA refer to themselves somewhat flippantly as an “athlete-student”. I can imagine that wasn’t the case in Harvard and the Ivy League?

CL –No it wasn’t.  It was difficult, particularly because I trained alone for my first two years.  I felt the team’s training regime was not going to be beneficial and as they initially demanded I followed it in order to run for the team, I ended up working alone.

tbUSA – During your time at Harvard, you took both the 100m and 200m school records, but you also competed in the World Student Games in 2001 and 2003, where you won bronze and gold respectively. Was the school athletics department fully supportive of you competing at these events so late in the season? There have been instances of XC athletes not getting the support of their respective school due to the long season that it entails. I assume that wasn’t the case with you as a sprinter?

CL – It wasn’t the case at all.  Harvard were always supportive of my summer season and never made any attempt to interfere with it.  As a sprinter, the late races in August and September can often be when you find you best form.  I was also lucky with the timings though, as they didn’t require me to miss the start of term.  However that would have been a problem academically, not athletically.

tbUSA – During your time, you finished a very respectable 4th at the NCAAs in Sacramento. Was this your NCAA highlight? If not, what was?

CL – I loved taking part in the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships.  There was a real intensity of team competition.  In 2002 it was held at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, a fantastic setting in the bay with an amazing Mondo track.  I ran really well there and took a lot of enjoyment from competing with my team; it’s a rare opportunity in athletics.  Coming 4th in the NCAA was an excellent achievement for me but I was the only Harvard athlete there!

tbUSA – How do you feel your time in the NCAA prepared you for coping with the demands of qualifying for, and then competing, at the Athens Olympics?

CL – As much as I loved competing for Harvard, I do feel that my summer competitions in the UK and Europe gave me better preparation for championship racing

tbUSA – We ask this of all our athlete features, but what advice would you give to prospective student-athletes in the UK or Ireland looking at the NCAA as an option? (academics, location, training philosophy etc)

CL – I would say the most important thing is to understand what your obligations are.  I was lucky in that Harvard don’t offer sports scholarships so once I was admitted, my athletic career was not in any way connected to my ability to attend the university.  I know stories of athletes whose places at other schools were at risk because they got injured or were told to do events they had no desire to do.  After that it’s important to look at location and training philosophy, because you will be spending 4 years there and you want to be in the best position you can be in for yourself.

tbUSA – So, are you putting that Harvard degree to good use?

CL – At the moment, not so much.  I’m working at LOCOG and very much looking forward to helping put on the Games of a lifetime.  It has proved more important to my CV that I actually went to Harvard and graduated well than it has what I studied there.

tbUSA – Lastly and least importantly, did you have Facemash or theFacebook when you were there?

CL – I do remember Facemash vaguely, but according to Facebook I have been a member since February 2004!  If you can imagine it, it used to just be Harvard students and was (and still is) a great way to keep in touch with the people I left behind when I graduated and moved back here.  Uninterestingly enough I was one of the first 4000 users.

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