It’s 8.30am on set of our Shoreditch shoot. Isobel Pooley, silver Commonwealth medalist and British outdoor high jump record holder, sips a flat white, jetlagged from the Oregon red eye.
For the 23-year old, with the legs that go on for days (well, 44 inches from hip to heel), it’s hardly surprising that jumping the height of a fridge freezer every day takes its toll on the body. ‘What I do is so physically demanding. My day begins at 8am and it’s intense. I’m so lucky to have lottery funding because it stops the injuries before they happen.’
I'd love to be the first British woman to clear two meters
With an entourage to rival Taylor Swift’s – we’re talking psychologist, nutritionist, physio, doctors - Team Pooley believes she’s in the best shape of her life. And having won a podium finish at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, she’s got her sights set firmly on the bigger stage.
‘I’ve had my best indoor season and I’m currently ranked seventh in the world. I have everything I need to propel me to make that tiny percentile of achievement.’
With a PB of 1.97m, she knows she’s going to be up against some tough competition in the shape of new kid on the block, US teen jumper Vashti Cunningham, who cleared 1.99m in March’s World Indoor Championships.
‘Mental resilience is a huge factor’ she says. ‘The bar’s up there and it’s high!’
With three attempts at each bar, ‘you can have two failures but clear the third and potentially win the competition’ she says. ‘The principle of not giving up extends to all aspects of my life. I feel like I’m learning a really valuable life lesson doing high jump. It’s teaching me resilience and strength. If I can conquer that bar I can conquer anything.’
Running a lap of honour at the Commonwealth Games was the most phenomenal experience of my career
If there’s one thing Pooley has in spades, it’s positivity. ‘It’s like a mirror’, she explains, ‘if you put out positive energy, you get it back in bucket loads. She loves the warmth she gets from the crowd. ‘I entertain them, it’s a performance after all.'
Given the natural advantage of her 6’3” frame, it’s clear she has a real competitive edge over fellow jumpers. ‘There are people who’d kill to have my height in my field of work,’ she grins.
Has it always been easy growing up tall? ‘Not always’, she admits with endearing honesty, ‘I used to be self-conscious but I’ve learned from my family that it doesn’t matter what your body shape – my dad’s 6’10” and probably the tallest human many people will ever see – it’s how you carry yourself that’s important.’
‘And having size 10 feet prompts those REALLY funny comments like “wow you’ve got massive feet”’. Cue theatrical face palm. In fact, having size 10 feet is hugely advantageous in her line of work. ‘On tip toes I can gain a foot!’ Besides, she chuckles, ‘if I had smaller feet I’d fall over.’
Thank god, she says, for LTS shoes. ‘I can’t wear heels anymore so I’m all about the flats. Embellished, pointy, strappy.... I love frocking up in a maxi for an athlete’s party’.
The most important relationship you’ll ever have is the relationship with yourself
Which brings us neatly on to dating. When asked if there’s time in her life for love, she doesn’t miss a beat: ‘the most important relationship you’ll ever have is the relationship you have with yourself’. So do many guys make the grade? ‘I think of my height as an automatic filter. He’s got to be confident and secure because his girlfriend could be taller than him!’
That bar represents your demons… your deepest fears. If I can conquer that I can conquer anything