Allison Stokke was just a high school student-athlete whose life turned upside down when she woke up one day. In an instant, Stokke’s face was seen on every website all over the internet, and after 10 years she’s speaking up about the accidental experience that has forever altered her life as she once knew it. Read on to see how Allison’s life changed with the blink of an eye.
A Viral Sensation
When a photo surfaced online of Allison Stokke at age 17 at a pole vaulting completion in New York, her life was flipped upside down. People everywhere were commenting on the photo and posting it on other sites, all without Stokke’s permission. Furthermore, she did not want this attention. Many news companies picked up the story, and in the blink of any eye, Allison Stokke became a viral phenomenon. However she soldiered on, set pole vaulting records, and took on a side job as a model. This is her story – of her unwanted claim to fame, of what she’s accomplished and overcome along the way.
Before we dig in deep, let’s roll back a minute. Born in California, Allison Stokke’s parents are Cindy and Allan who were thrilled their baby girl arrived on March 22nd, 1989. In case you wondered, Allison does an older brother, David, who competed as a gymnastic at a young age. Due to her brother’s influence, Allison tried gymnastics but found that her calling was something else. Little did she know how much that choice would change her life in years to come.
After Allison tried gymnastics, and found that it didn’t suit her, she found her true calling: pole vaulting. While attending Newport Harbor High School, Allison quickly became one of the country’s best and youngest vaulters. In fact, she won a title in 2004 for the 15-16 age group when she landed a championship record of 3.81 m (12 ft 6 in).
Allison Stokke, The Record Breaker
From then on, Allison carried on breaking records left and right. For instance, she broke the “American record for a high school freshman” when she vaulted 3.86 m (12 ft 7 3⁄4 in). Then she set a brand new record as a high school sophomore with 4.11 m (13 ft 5 3⁄4 in) back in 2005. Moreover, all of her vaults proved to be the best ever achieved by any American aged 15 and 16.
Even though Allison broke her leg, she went on to win at the CIF California State Meet – TWICE. Then during her senior year at high school, she ranked second at the national high school rankings; all thanks to her new best of 4.14 m (13 ft 6 3⁄4 in). Oh, that record of hers is actually double Michael Jordan’s height! At the end of the year, she finished in 8th place at the national junior championships.
Where It All Started
So, the photo below is the same one that first put her in the spotlight. It was 2007 and Stokke was competing in New York when the famous photo was captured by a journalist for a Californian track and field website. The journalist added the photos online and bam! May arrived and the photo was re-posted by a sports blog known as ‘With Leather’. This particular blog has a very large male fanbase, who immediately began to remark on Stokke’s attractiveness – she was only 17 when this photo was posted. Oh, and the heading the blog chose: “Pole Vaulting is Sexy, Barely Legal”.
Naturally, none of the comments on the blog had anything to do with the sport. All of the attention was on Allison Stokke’s appearance and as a 17 year old, it really took a toll. The original photographer threatened to sue Matt Ufford, the owner of With Leather, if he didn’t remove the image. However, it was too late, the blog had already received TONS of attention and was being posted on various other websites.
Not long after, a tribute website was created to Allison Stokke. Soon enough, the tribute site got hold of serveral images of Stokke competing in the pole vault and uploaded as many as they could. Once those same images spread all over social media, tons of internet fan groups gained thousands of followers. Some of the followers even claimed Stokke was their “internet crush”.
Within a few weeks, Allison’s photos became such an internet phenomenon that many news companies began comment pieces on Allison Stokke. Such as The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times.
Oh, if you thought that the news organizations in the United States were the only ones to pick up the story, you’d be wrong. Yup, Allison Stokke was international news. Such as the British broadcast site the BBC, Australian site The Sydney Morning Herald, and even the German site Der Spiegel. Additionally, Stokke’s name was searched more than a million times on search engines.
Even as a teen, Stokke recognized and acknowledged her personal situation as a Catch-22. See the attention she was getting hit her like a ton of bricks. Glamour covered her story, offers from Maxim came in, The Today Show wanted her as a guest – however none of it had to do with her athletic achievements. At the end of the day, it all had to do with her looks. Therefore Allison waited for the storm to blow over, that was the best solution for her.
Despite all the offers, Allison turned down every single one. Which lead people to ask, why? Why not take advantage of the red carpet laid out at your feet? Well, Allison knew that if she did, once she accepted that she is a “beautiful” athlete, that’s all she’d ever be. The media would tear her apart and the world of athletics would never take her seriously.
Initially Allison Stokke tried to control the intense situation all by herself but that proved to be more challenging than she anticipated. After getting constantly bombarded with emails and photo shoot requests, Allison knew she needed help. Therefore she hired a media consultant in order to help handle her new found fame.
So Much Attention
Allison Stokke decided to give an interview – but on her pole vaulting technique in an attempt to shift the discussion off of her looks. The interview was uploaded to YouTube and went on to gain over one hundred thousand views! Be that as it may, all of the comments and discussion on the video were focused on Allison’s looks rather than her skill.
That’s when Allan, Allison’s father, stepped in. Allan is a lawyer who took it upon himself to review all of the online material about his daughter. His mission? To identify any and all illegal behavior or stalkers toward Allison. Stokke reflected on her situation to The Washington Post, “Even if none of it is illegal, it just all feels really demeaning. I worked so hard for pole vaulting and all this other stuff, and it’s almost like that doesn’t matter. Nobody sees that. Nobody really sees me.”
Highlighting the Situation
So CBS stepped in and used Allison’s story in order to highlight all of the dangers that the internet can bring when it comes to publicly sexualizing people, young people in particular. With, or without, that individual’s permission. Der Spiegel, the German site we mentioned, also noted that Allison Stokke had turned into a “sex symbol against her will”.
All of the attention that Allison was getting really began to affect her psychologically. In fact, she said that she actually found all of the eyeballing (or any longing look) “creepy and a little scary”. Additionally, because of all the intense attention, Allison even was careful to lock doors behind and double check they were in fact locked.
The Battle Ahead
It became clear to Allison that she had a long battle ahead. Slowly it dawned on her that not everyone was going to focus on her athleticism, but rather that her looks would continue to overshadow her success. As a result, the name Allison Stokke was searched on online platforms over one million times. And unfortunately, more websites continued to report on just her appearance and not her skill as a pole vaulter.
Numerous photographers had began to attend all of the track and field competitions that Allison was a part of. Therefore her online fame continued. However, Stokke brushed it all off and continued to focus on her life. She studied hard and earned an athletic scholarship at the University of California, Berkeley to study sociology.
Record After Record
During her first year with the California Golden Bears, she participated in plenty of competitions. Specifically for the collegiate track team – where she would go on to break the school record for a freshman athlete! But, get this, for both indoors and outdoors! She reached a vault of 4.11 m (13 ft 5 3⁄4 in).
That season, Stokke was a competitor at the Pac-10 Conference and also the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) regional meets. Again, “fans” showed up to cheer her on while others set themselves up strategically to take photos in particular angles. All of which bothered Stokke but she noticed that was becoming just another part of her life.
During her second year, her pole vaulting coach was Scott Slover, a former 5-time All-American at UCLA. Slover taught Stokke well as she went on to finish 8th at the Pac-10 Championships and 7th at the MPSF Indoor Championships. Plus she got her debut at the NCAA Women’s Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships, where she ranked 19th through her best effort of 3.90 m (12 ft 9 1⁄2 in). She was really proud of herself but that just meant more photos for her “fans” to ogle.
Year three at Berkeley saw Stokke receive conference all-academic honors at the Pac-10 and MPSF level. Morover she got an honorable academic mention by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. By now, Stokke was growing accustomed to the fans she brought in and the attention received on and off the field. Many more websites began posting pictures of her, updating “fans” of her progress – but really, it was just another place for her “fans” to discuss her looks.
When her last year of collegiate vaulting came around, Stokke did not improve her best. Therefore she came 8hth at the Pac-10 Championships and missed the qualification for the NCAA Championships by just two places at regionals. However her “fans” didn’t really take notice of her times or where she placed, the comments on various fanpages only talked about Stokke’s looks and nothing more.
The attention that Allison was receiving was so overwhelming that it’s almost like she didn’t exist from 2009 and 2014. “At that point, I wasn’t the best vaulter in the country, so why should I be getting that much attention?” she says. “It cut the other way, too, though. I think at some point Cal just decided: ‘Don’t put anything up about her.’ So even if I jumped high or won a meet, they wouldn’t put up a picture or article, and that’s actually the kind of recognition I would have liked to see.”
“It cut the other way, too, though. I think at some point Cal just decided: ‘Don’t put anything up about her.’ So even if I jumped high or won a meet, they wouldn’t put up a picture or article, and that’s actually the kind of recognition I would have liked to see.” Wow, we can’t even imagine how hard that would be! All her accomplishments just kept quiet.
Now the Los Angeles Times were not the only ones to speak up on Allison’s belief. All of the news organizations mentioned that Stokke did not at any time seek or endorse such attention. Brett Hutchins and David Rowe wrote in their book Technology, Power and Culture in the Network Society that Stokke’s predicament was similar to that of American soccer players Alex Morgan and Hope Solo. Yes, another case of attractive white female athletes who had their public image sexualized and whose sporting achievements were undermined.
Brett Hutchins and David Rowe also used material in relation to Allison Stokke, highlighting as well that social media comments frequently insulted in nature and “blamed the sexualization process on the women themselves”. Other reporters compared Stokke to Brandi Chastain’s celebration when winning the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final in her sports bra, to when women in certain sporting moments are overshadowed by talk of their appearance.
After Allison completed her degree, she carried on with competitions in the pole vault. Although Stokke did not rank as high as other American athletes. In an attempt to “overcome that photo”, Allison set her sights on the Olympics. Stokke reached a NEW lifetime best of 4.36 m (14 ft 3 1⁄2 in) in the 2012 season. Her aim to make it to the 2012 London Olympics were in grasp.
Missed The Cut
Despite her best efforts, Allison did not perform well during the 2012 United States Olympic Trials. As she was one of 12 competitors who failed to clear the opening height of 4.25 m (13 ft 11 1⁄4 in). In 2015, Stokke managed to reach her best height of 4.15 m (13 ft 7 1⁄4 in). This new record landed her a third-place finish at the National Pole Vault Summit; which ranked her just outside of the top 30 American women in 2015.
Allison, The Model
Once Allison saw that her career in the pole vault path was a bit rocky, she decided to set her sights elsewhere. Yup, Allison Stokke became a model. A sportswear model if we’re specific. As a result, Stokke appeared in many campaigns for Nike, Inc. and Athleta, among others.
GoPro Sets Their Sights
Not long after and Stokke partnered with GoPro! How so? Well Stokke delivered a series of videos of her vaulting heights, while the camera was attached to her pole, in order to demonstrate the inner workings of the sport. Furthermore, it obviously advertised the action that the camera equipment could provide. By 2016, Stokke’s GoPro videos received an excess of six million views on YouTube! Crazy.
That same year, 2016, Allison and Uniqlo joined forces. Many video campaigns of Uniqlo featured Stokke exercising in their newest fitness collection. Although recently it looks as though Stokke has hung her hat in the modeling gig.
Dang, 2016 was a busy year for Allison Sokke! She was pictured with Rickie Fowler (a professional golfer) while at the motocross Grand Prix. Photographers captured the duo close and personal, just having a good time in one another’s company. Then Stokke and Fowler also shared photos on their personal Instagram accounts that launched the rumor mill into overload.
Who’s The Hunk?
So who exactly is the 28 year old? Rickie Fowler was born on December 13th, 1988 and, as we mentioned, is a successful professional golfer. He has seven professional wins to his name, four of the PGA Tour, two European Tour wins, and one in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
Of course it didn’t take long for Fowler’s teammate to spill the beans that Rickie Fowler and Allison Stokke were really dating. Thanks, bud. During a press conference, Jason Day made a joke about his partner’s absence from a team meeting the day before. Saying he had made a new partner! **Wink, wink**
As the relationship was made official, the social media attention for the pair has been off the charts. Often you can see photos of Stokke and Fowler walking hand in hand. Or you can see photos from their social media accounts, smiling big and enjoying grand adventures!
Melt Your Heart Love
While the duo live a life most of us can only dream of, they’re also each other’s biggest supporters. Stokke is always photographed at Fowler’s golfing tournaments, cheering on her man. Number one fan? It’s plausible. Ugh, don’t let the jealously consume you!
Not only does she support Fowler, but it looks like she’s also picking up the clubs! Undoubtedly Fowler is teaching his girl the love of the game, and it seems as though she’s killing it.
Partners In All
Recently, Stokke uploaded to her Instagram the following photo, with the caption, “Feels good to get back at it! Got myself an East Coast training partner too 😉” Guess a couple that works out together, stays together? Or something like that.
Started From The…
Guys, Allison Stokke has certainly come a long way from the 2007 incident that left everyone with their jaws on the floor. While she’s had ups and downs with her unwanted fame, she has certainly excelled in life. Many athletics applaud her efforts to exposure unwanted attention and also her efforts in getting others interested in pole vaulting. Lastly, Stokke certainly has a lot to be thankful for and plenty to look forward to!
What She Thinks
Recently, Allison Stoke piped up about her feelings toward the viral photo that forever changed her life. “I feel like me and that picture are two different people. I feel it has taken on a life of its own.” Yikes, that sounds intimidating.
Ahem, Stoke went on to add, “It’s like that picture is my alter-ego and sometimes I feel like I use it for a positive force, and sometimes I just choose to leave it out there and not engage with it.”
Cindy, Allison’s mom, also spoke about the toll it took on her daughter, “I think I saw her grow up faster. “She saw how the world can be, saw how some people can be really cruel, some people can be great. I think she realized, ‘I can’t be so concerned about what everyone else thinks; I have to pursue my career and my dream and my sport.'”
Unfortunately male athletes often don’t encounter the same double standard. Especially when it comes to their looks and their skill. “I’ve never seen this viral thing happen to a male athlete who isn’t also already the best at what they do,” Stokke says. “Yes, male athletes are also hailed for being incredibly attractive, but they’re usually top-ranked in the world, too.”
What She Wanted
No matter what anyone says, Allison is an athlete. Over time she has conditioned herself to become whatever is necessary in order to achieve her dreams. “If she was going to be in the limelight, it was going to be because she was an athlete, and she knew that was about her looks,” says Cindy (her mom). “She wanted to be known for her ability to pole vault. That’s what she wanted.”
Guys, Stokke also opened up and said, “At Cal, I wrote about it once for a Sociology class. We were supposed to write about some deep thing that affected you emotionally, and then you had the option to share, or not share and delete it. And I didn’t share it. I deleted it. I wish I still had that somewhere, because I think it would be very different now.”
So if you would have asked her back then, she would have said, “My response back then, in 2008 — was I flattered? In some ways, sure. But I was overwhelmed, too. And I think my response to being overwhelmed was to just stay away from it entirely.”
However now Allison Stokke is singing a new tune. “But now, I’m trying to figure out how to reclaim it and own it and push it in the right direction. And benefit from it — in terms of fueling my training. And if I try to ignore it, it will take on a life of its own. Which is what I did in college: ignore it. And I lost control of my own story.”
Before Stokke truly broke the internet with the pole vaulting photos which emerged, only real fans of the sport could actually even name a professional pole vaulter. However, nowadays even more ladies are going viral for their pole vaulting skills. Unfortunately last year a list ranked “The Hottest Women Pole Vaulters of the 2016 Rio Olympics” was produced. Such pole vaulters that made the list were Sandi Morris from the USA team and Eliza McCartney from the New Zealand team.
Give Up? Never
Lastly, Stokke is working hard on perfecting her craft and with her new coach in Phoenix, Arizona, she is well on her way. Now Stokke has yet to drop her sights on making the Olympic team and with her determination, we’re sure to see more of Stokke in the near future.
In June 2017, Stokke posted on her Instagram, Craving those back of the runway jitters 🙋🏽” So it definitely looks like Stokke is back at it, training hard to make her dreams come true.
Up and Up
Much of Stokke’s Instagram is dedicated to not just her life, but showing her skill at pole vaulting and inspiring others dedicated to fitness. She tries to show everyone, “fans” included, what it takes to be a fitness model and how to achieve one’s dreams.
But it’s not all hard work! Stokke and Fowler dressed up in onesies for Halloween 2017 and they look as cute as can be!
Golf Game On
Maybe one day, Fowler and Stokke will have a golf tournament between one another. Wonder who will come out on top?
Happy As Can Be
In any case, we can’t wait to see what Stokke does next!