One Photo Almost Derailed This Pole Vaulter’s Promising Career


The widespread usage of social media has resulted in a number of people becoming famous by accident. Some may have talent — while others may garner notoriety for ‘other’ reasons. In the case of Allison Stokke, both occurred. As an innocent 17-year-old high school athlete in California, her life changed forever

An Athletic Family

A native of Southern California, Allison grew up in a loving and athletic family. Her older brother was recognized growing up as a National Youth gymnast. Allison tried to become a gymnast as well. However, she quickly found out that she was destined to star in another sport.

Welcome to Pole Vaulting

As fate would have it, Allison fell in love with the sport of pole vaulting. She ultimately developed into one of the greatest pole vaulters in high school pole vaulting history. However, something else overshadowed her brilliance on the athletic field.

A True Prodigy

Allison enrolled at Newport Harbor High School. As a high school freshman in 2004, Allison broke the American record for high school freshmen when she vaulted 12 feet, 7.75 inches. As a sophomore, she set a country-wide high school record with a 13 feet, 5.75-inch effort. Allison was so good, that she won the CIF California State Championship.

A Huge Setback

Allison was a rising star within the sport. She began garnering national notoriety for her pole vaulting prowess. One day in practice, Allison began experimenting with a larger pole. This was dissimilar from the one she had previously been using. Launching herself forward, Allison misdiagnosed the height she needed to clear the bar. What happened next was utterly terrifying.Allison was a rising star within the sport. She began garnering national notoriety for her pole vaulting prowess. One day in practice, Allison began experimenting with a larger pole. This was dissimilar from the one she had previously been using. Launching herself forward, Allison misdiagnosed the height she needed to clear the bar. What happened next was utterly terrifying.

A Long Recovery

A miscalculation in her launch resulted in Allison violently landing in the concrete launch box below the bar. Sadly, Allison ended up breaking a bone in her ankle. A surgery followed — which effectively ended her chance at repeating as a state champion. After a six-month recovery process, Allison was destined to get back into the pole vaulting game. Little did she know that she was about to blow up into an internet sensation.

A Comeback

As a true competitor, Allison didn’t let her past injury prevent her from coming back strong. As a senior in high school, she won yet another CIF California State title. By the end of her senior season, she secured a scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley. Things appeared to be going swimmingly for Allison. However, one single picture completely altered the trajectory of her life.

A Concerning Image

Allison had been competing in a pole vaulting competition in New York during her high school days. At the time, she was only 17 years of age. One day, a California Track and Field Website posted images from the event. It featured Allison as she got ready to compete. Bizarrely enough, one of these images caused Allison to turn into a household name.

Going Viral

Though social media hadn’t fully developed into the monster that it currently is, it didn’t stop Allison from becoming a known commodity across the country. In the picture shown above, Allison is innocently waiting to compete whilst holding her pole. The question remains: How did this photo go viral? As the nation found out, it was the work of one notorious blog…

Sexualizing A Minor

The photo of Allison became famous after being re-posted by the blog With Leather. This sports-centric blog (which ultimately became owned by UPROXX) commented on Allison and her appearance. This was no surprise, as the site was geared towards a largely male fan base. While posting the picture of Allison was shocking, the headline that followed was even worse.

“Pole Vaulting is Sexy, Barely Legal”

The headline ‘Pole Vaulting is Sexy, Barely Legal’ accompanied the infamous picture of Allison. The blog post — written by blog owner Matt Ufford — was written two months after the image was taken. Allison was 18 years old at the time of the post, though she was 17 years of age when the picture was taken. Legal action was to follow — though it was too late.

A Worldwide Sensation

One simple blog post caused Allison to go viral all over the world. The image was shared on all major social media platforms. Soon, mainstream newspapers — such as BBC, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Der Spiegel, and The Sydney Morning Herald — began covering the story. After Ufford had allegedly sexualized Allison on his blog, the original owner of the image decided to explore legal action in defense of Allison.

Too Little, Too Late

The original photographer of Allison’s image threatened to take legal action against the blog owner. However, the image had spawned to an inordinate amount of blogs, media sites, and other journalistic mediums. It simply was too late for the photographer to hide the image of Allison. With all of the newfound attention, things weren’t easy for the star athlete.

Stokke, The Model?

Allison did not seek all of the worldwide attention she was getting. She was content with being a happy high school student who also happened to be an elite athlete. Soon, Allison was thrown off guard by the crazy number of interview and photo shoot requests. Wanting to get control of the situation, Allison’s parents shot into action.

The Help of a Media Consultant

Allison’s loving parents — Allan and Cindy — enlisted the help of a media consultant. The goal was to deal with the onslaught of media attention. Additionally, the media consultant was tasked to helping to showcase Allison as a fantastic athlete rather than solely as a sex symbol. Allison did create a YouTube video to speak about her sport. However, the disgusting aftermath of the video (in the comments section) forced her family into a very serious decision.

The Creepy Side of the Internet

With Allison becoming a known commodity, it created a whole sub-culture of aggressive internet followers. Twice as many photographers as usual would show up to her pole vaulting events. Message boards were dedicated solely to her looks. Fake profiles claiming to be Allison were all over Facebook. A fan page was even created to worship the young athlete. Allison’s father Allan — a lawyer — decided to look into legal action.

Quotes From the Family

In an interview with the Washington Post, Allison and her family spoke about the disgusting content they’d find online. Allison’s mother admitted that “This kind of stuff has been going on for years. But now, locker room talk is just out there in the public. And all of us can read it, even her mother.”

Allison herself had this to say:

“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.”

The Next Step in Her Career

After her high school career ended, Allison ended up pole vaulting at the University of California, Berkeley. It wasn’t a shock to see her at the school, especially since she held an impressive 4.0 GPA in high school. As a freshman, Allison broke multiple school records. As a sophomore, she was considered one of the best pole vaulters in the Pac-12 Conference.

An Olympian?

Aside from becoming an Academic All-American, Allison also garnered All-American status during her senior year. This led Allison into competing for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. Her goal was to appear in the 2012 London Olympics. However, Allison never quite made it over the hump. As her athletic career ended, she transitioned into a completely different profession.

A New Direction

Allison became a model for a number of sports apparel brands, including Uniqlo, Nike, and Athleta. She then brokered a partnership with GoPro. A series of YouTube videos showcased Allison and her first love — pole vaulting. After participating sparingly in events throughout the years, Allison soon discarded her first love for her true love.

Hello, Rickie Fowler

In 2017, Allison began dating professional golfer Rickie Fowler. This appeared to be a match made in heaven. Like Allison, Rickie was a highly-regarded athlete from a young age. After becoming the No. 1 amateur golfer in the world, Rickie soon turned professional as a 21-year-old. Both natives of Southern California, it wasn’t long before Allison and Rickie became more serious as a couple.

An Engagement!

The following year, Allison and Rickie became engaged. This newfound power couple from within the sporting world quickly became the talk of the town. The two are head over heels for one another. After getting married in October of 2019, Rickie and Allison embarked on a very special honeymoon.

Flying in Style

Rickie and Allison ended up marrying in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. From there, many were wondering as to where the couple would be honeymooning. According to one report, Puma — the main company sponsoring Rickie during his golf career — sent its private plane to pick up the couple. Rumors are swirling that the couple are honeymooning in Cape Town, South Africa.

Living a Fun Life

As one can see from Allison’s Instagram page, there’s no shortage of fun in the lives of either her or her husband. She continues to be a fitness model, as well as someone who is an inspiration to millions around the world. There are even a few pictures/videos where Allison continues her pole vaulting journey.

A Look Back

Allison follows in the line of female athletes who become sexualized for their appearance, rather than praised for their prowess in the pursuit of athletics. This has become a problem over the years with a number of female athletes. As social media becomes more firmly embedded within the fabric of the world, these instances sadly become more and more frequent.

What Can We Learn

As the internet community moves forward, everyone should be more mindful as to how they portray complete strangers on the internet. Allison was clearly uncomfortable with the notoriety growing up — particularly when she was a 17-year-old teenager. The sexually charged comments from many faceless online personalities not only made Allison and her family uncomfortable, but it detracted from her brilliance as a pole vaulter.

A Shining Example

Lost in the shuffle is Allison’s ability to shine as a student athlete. She parlayed a 4.0 GPA into an athletic scholarship at the No. 2 public school in the United States. While Allison is a great athlete, many can look at her as a wonderful example of someone who was rewarded by persevering in the classroom with hard work and determination. She is an inspiration, to say the least.

The Story of Allison Stokke

Without a doubt, Allison Stokke has gone through her own trials and tribulations. Amidst it all, she came out of it with class. Allison took what could’ve been a very negative situation, and spun it into something of an inspirational story. She’s unquestionably a very good role model for millions across the globe.


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