Isobel Pooley: Zika virus 'the last thing on my mind' before Rio 2016 Olympics

By Isobel PooleyGreat Britain high jumper
Isobel Pooley
Isobel Pooley finished third on the countback at the Glasgow Grand Prix last weekend

British high jumper Isobel Pooley is working towards a place in Team GB's squad for the 2016 Olympics.

Last weekend the 23-year-old set a new indoor personal best of 1.93m at the Glasgow Indoor Grand Prix and, prior to Rio, Pooley has an exciting end to the indoor season in prospect - including this weekend's British trials in Sheffield. external-link

In her latest BBC column, the British outdoor record holder discusses her progress, the Zika virus, returning to the scene of 2014 glory in Glasgow and her "glamorous" jet-setting lifestyle.

More from Isobel Pooley
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We'll get through litres of insect repellent

I reckon Zika will be a distant memory by the time August comes around. From what I've heard, the cooler, drier weather of Brazil's winter season will naturally kill off most of the disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Combine this with the organising committee's diligent approach to fumigation and reducing standing water and I'm confident the risk will be minimal. I imagine that as a team we'll get through litres of insect repellent - but we'd probably be using it anyway.

I don't have any plans to start a family this year so the only risk is that I might have flu-like symptoms for a few days, which would be unfortunate but not life-threatening.

I do feel desperately sorry for the parents whose children are being born with life-limiting disabilities though - this must be earth-shattering for them. I hope a vaccine can be developed soon to protect unborn babies.

The Olympic Games are our opportunity to distinguish ourselves as athletes and I wouldn't miss this chance for the world. There's always a drama in the lead up to the Olympics but Zika is the last thing on my mind when I think about Rio.

My knees end up pressed into the plastic tray

Isobel Pooley
This is the way to travel. On the Eurostar to Brussels

On the subject of trips, during competition season I'm flying to a different city almost every week and can't believe this jet-setting lifestyle is really mine!

There's a very serious element to competing at the highest level, but this doesn't spoil the thrill of getting to visit foreign places and perform in new arenas.

I still have a degree of the excitement about airports I used to have when I was a child going on our summer holiday. That said, transport can be a nightmare when you're tall. The legroom on some budget airlines is so small that my knees are pressed into the plastic tray on the seat in front.

Some years ago my dad, who is 6ft 10in, had to be moved since he actually couldn't sit down in a standard seat. Extra-legroom seats are a must for us.

On a recent flight to Berlin, I ended up with a whole row to myself and lay down across three seats for a nap - my back and hips felt so much better for it and for once I didn't have a numb bum by the end of the flight!

People-watching and trying to be 'lazy'

Stefan Holm, Sofie Skoog and Isobel Pooley (right)
High jump, high jinx. Isobel Pooley (right) lightens the mood during a recent event with Swedish high-jumper Sofie Skoog and Sofie's coach Stefan Holm

Airports and stations are great places for people-watching. I love it when I see people who are clearly excited about their trip and are all smiling and laughing. It's incredible how a smile or nice comment from somebody can lift you out of a bad mood.

Sadly though, of all the smiles I try to give, very few are returned. People seem generally wary of strangers, though I have had some lovely exchanges especially with older women and fellow tall travellers!

I try to see the beauty in things when I'm out and about. People can be so beautiful, both physically and on another level. I find myself moved by the love between parents and their children and the considerate kindness of the elderly. My day can be made by the smallest comment or courtesy, or by seeing a particularly amazing sunset or sunrise.

For all of the travelling, sight-seeing and getting out and about, I do remain cautious about burning the candle at both ends and it's more important than ever to rest intensively between trips. This might involve an afternoon at the spa where I can detach myself from the outside world and just lounge about, read a book and enjoy the sauna and pools.

Some days I would seem incredibly "lazy" but actually it's a hard discipline to stay in the house and rest when there's a whole world out there.

Bogged down in Belgium to good times in Glasgow

Isobel Pooley won silver in the 2014 Commonwealth Games high jump
Pooley won silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, her first major senior medal

Going back to Glasgow for the Indoor Grand Prix last weekend was fantastic and brought back all the memories of the Commonwealth Games in 2014. The people in Scotland created a wonderful event for all of us.

I finished third on the countback because of my first-attempt failure at 1.90, but I set a new indoor PB with 1.93.

It was a big contrast to Belgium, which was a nightmare competition. There was nothing wrong with the venue or the event, it was just in my head I had created so many barriers to my performance so I felt bogged down and in the depths of despair when things weren't really going my way.

High jump is all about resilience and it doesn't really matter how you turn up on the day, you have to make the most of what you have got.

I turned up in Glasgow in great shape - I have been in great shape all year - but it has just taken me this long to realise it.

It's almost inevitable you will perform

Pooley inspired by team-mate Grabarz

I have to win the British trials this weekend to get automatic selection for the Indoor World Championships in Portland next month, otherwise it will have to be a discretionary place. But I really hope to be on that team. It will be a fantastic trip.

We have a year of opportunities here with the World Indoors and the European Championship leading in to the Olympics. I still have a lot to learn about major events so I am blessed. I still have these two major opportunities to cut my teeth with the best in the world and learn the ins and outs ahead of the Olympic Games so that nothing will take me by surprise.

We work all year to produce a performance that justifies all the hard work we have put in. Sometimes you can put yourself under too much pressure to perform when it matters.

Actually, it is all the hard work that makes it almost inevitable you will perform on those days so it is often a matter of trust - trust in the training you have done, the coach you have got and the environment you are in to let that performance out.

Rather than trying to make it happen it is more a case of letting it happen, and that is what I am beginning to understand.

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