Isobel Pooley: High jump star revels in year of self discovery
Isobel Pooley’s exploits this year may not have made her a household name, yet the high jumper feels no frustration at missing out on the London Olympics after a promising debut senior season.
The 19-year-old came agonisingly close to the required Olympic qualification height, falling 2cm short, as she improved her outdoor personal best by 10cm from 1.80m to 1.90m.
But with wins in the BUCS Championship, McCain Championship Series and her first appearance at the European Championships representing Team GB, the Nottingham University student has had to re-examine and extend her ambitions.
“This year has definitely been the best of my life so far,” Pooley told RTN.
“I surpassed my own previous expectations and have had to re-assess my goals as I discovered the extent of my potential.
“I was gobsmacked to be on the Olympic short list and sat in the Olympic Preparation meetings feeling like I’d won the lottery.
“The London Games have benefitted me in so many ways that it’s impossible to feel negative about the events of this summer, even if maybe I could have jumped the 1.92m standard given the perfect conditions.”
Self-pity isn’t an emotion Pooley acknowledges and any mention of disappointment connected to not competing at a home Olympics is dismissed. It is a poignant characteristic, and one that exemplifies the considered approach she takes both personally and as an athlete.
However, the Aldershot, Farenham & District Athletics Club member offers a candid account of her battle to manage the sudden ascent. She said: “It was very exciting [coming so close to Olympic Qualification] but it also brought a lot of pressure and expectation, which I struggled to cope with at first.”
It is a tale that all athletes who navigate a period of rapid progress can associate with. For Pooley though, her training set-up and coach Fayyaz Ahmed, warmly known as Fuzz, have been instrumental in alleviating the stresses during her transformation.
“The training environment in Fuzz’s group is unlike anything I’d experienced before moving to Uni. As a trained actor, Fuzz is a great communicator and always keeps us clued into our sessions so that we really understand the principles behind our training.”
His unique background particularly helped during the BUCS Championships in May, hosted at the Olympic Stadium as the official dress rehearsal event. “The crowd were very noisy,” Pooley recalled. “But many of them hadn’t watched athletics before so didn’t really know when to clap and cheer, instead maintaining a constant disorganized buzz.
“Fuzz picked up on this and told me to ‘Take control of the crowd’. I stared at him blankly for a second, doubting that anyone, even Blanka Vlasic, could captivate the 46,000 people.
“However, determined to give it a go, I faced the main stand and put one finger to my lips. I brought my hands together to start the clap and by the third clap I turned to face the bar as the crowd gave me their full support for my final attempt at the record-breaking height. Though I didn’t clear the height, I will always remember those few surreal seconds and the rapturous applause.”
And it was performances like that, in intense conditions not experienced before, which confirmed to the UK Athletics officials that Pooley deserved selection for the World Class Performance Programme announced in late October.
“I was absolutely thrilled to be recognised as worthy of UKA funding,” she said. “As with any form of support/sponsorship, one of the most gratifying aspects – except maybe the financial assistance – is the real vote of confidence that comes with knowing that an organisation has faith in your ability and potential to succeed at the highest level.
“Such an endorsement, especially from UK athletics, is fantastic for confirming a sense of self-belief and a determination to fulfill your potential as an athlete.”
In a year of golden moments, Pooley remains self-assured; preferring to embrace the progression made rather than reflect on chances missed. “This has truly been a year of learning experiences for me and I am steadily finding my feet as a senior elite performer as opposed to an inexperienced junior athlete I was before,” she added.
“I have every confidence that opportunity will be waiting for me in Rio in 2016 by which time I will be older, wiser and ready to take on the world’s best.”
Reproduced from rememberthename.co.uk. Photo by Gary Mitchell.