It’s fairly common for sports stars to get their names in the press. However, while that’s generally because of their achievements on the field (or their questionable extra-curricular activities), it doesn’t usually have anything to do with their looks. That all changed, though, once a photo of Allison Stokke went viral back in 2007. She captured the world’s attention for all the wrong reasons and became an online sensation. Now that more than a decade has passed since that unforgettable moment, how has that one photo shaped this athlete’s life?
The center of attention
There was once a time when Allison Stokke was nothing more than an ambitious athlete looking to make it big. All the way back in 2007, she was still a high school senior desperate for her talent to speak for itself, but a photo soon changed everything.
While Stokke was competing, a picture was taken of her that quickly became a sensation online. Thousands of people started sharing the image, and it soon attracted the attention of news producers. Suddenly, everyone wanted to know who she was.
A sporting family
Born on March 22nd, 1989, Stokke was always destined to be a sports star. Her older brother, David, had shown an interest in gymnastics from a young age, and he ended up competing for the Californian youth team while growing up.
David became so skilled at what he did, he made it all the way to the national level, and it inspired Allison to try out gymnastics for herself. Although she realized it wasn’t for her, it led Stokke to discover the sport that truly spoke to her.
The start of something new
Shortly after rejecting gymnastics, Allison came across pole vaulting. She wasn’t sure what it was about the sport that took her fancy, but she knew she had to give it a try.
Luckily, that first moment she flung herself into the air gave her the adrenaline rush she’d been craving. Stokke began investing her time into pole vaulting, eventually competing at a professional level where she stood out from the crowd. Allison was only 15-years-old when she won the U.S. title with a record of 12 and a half feet.
Ahead of the game
It soon became clear that Stokke wasn’t any old pole vaulter. She was an incredibly talented youngster, and her capabilities were only going to grow with age.
The same year that Allison cleared 12 and a half feet and won the U.S. title, she upped the ante and went several inches higher. It was unheard of for a girl her age to be so talented, but she wasn’t done breaking records yet. The following year, she did one better and managed a height of nearly 13 and a half feet.
From strength to strength
Allison was only halfway through high school, but she was already showing more promise than most professional athletes. A fierce competitor with a drive to succeed, young pole vaulters all across the United States knew that Stokke was one to watch.
There was almost no-one her age that could beat her, and she was still only at the start of her career. When Allison attended the national championships as a senior, she went even higher than before, adding an extra inch to her record. She ended up placing eighth overall.
Waiting her turn
2007 was an incredible year for Stokke thanks to her incredible achievements in the sporting world. However, her performances in the pole vaulting event weren’t what people were talking about by the end of the championships.
It was while Allison was waiting for her turn at one of her events that a photo was taken of the athlete. There was nothing particularly special about it, but it attracted a lot of interest when it was published on ‘With Leather.’ Little did Stokke know how much that photo would affect her life.
Too little too late
Unfortunately, the blog that the picture was posted on had nothing to do with sport. The photo was uploaded alongside a degrading title about how Allison looked, leading people to start talking about her appearance.
The person who’d taken the picture had never meant for it to be used maliciously, and they threatened the website with legal action. However, that wasn’t going to do anything to save Stokke now. Her picture was out there and already the topic of intense discussion amongst the masses.
A growing fanbase
This photo of Allison proved to be just the first of many that started popping up online. After taking a fancy to her on ‘With Leather,’ a lot of young men start perusing the internet for more images of the rising star.
They ended up setting up a website dedicated to Stokke full of pictures of her in action. Her online popularity was rising exponentially by the day, and nothing was going to stop it. How was the pole vaulter supposed to respond to people calling her their ‘internet crush?’
Woman of the moment
With Allison becoming increasingly popular online, there was no getting rid of that photo. Any chance she had of it disappearing completely vanished once news sites started sharing it in their articles.
Publications like ‘The Washington Post’ and ‘The New York Times’ were getting in on the action, ensuring that millions of people across the United States became familiar with the young pole vaulter. Her popularity wasn’t merely restricted to America, though. She was being talked about all the way over in Europe and Australia!
Keeping things under control
All of this attention was too much for Stokke to handle. She was inundated with offers to do photo shoots for various brands, and she didn’t know what to do.
Allison ended up hiring a media consultant to help her cope with everything and try to keep her rising popularity under control. She’d never asked to be featured so prominently in the spotlight, but her newfound fame wasn’t going to just go away. Unfortunately, that meant she had to deal with the dark side of being in the public eye.
Focusing on her talent
Allison didn’t want to be known around the world for her looks. She’d worked hard to become a professional pole vaulter, and all this attention was distracting people from her actual talent.
To try and turn things around, Stokke ended up filming an interview where she talked at length about her passion and offered advice to people interested in taking up pole vaulting. However, it was no good. After the video hit YouTube, it received thousands of views, but most of the comments continued to focus on her appearance.
Looking for a loophole
Stokke’s family could see how much of an impact all this attention was having on her. She used to be so excited about going out and competing, but now she felt incredibly self-conscious leaving the house.
Even if people thought she was attractive, Allison didn’t like everyone staring at her. Desperate to help out his daughter, Allan Stokke tried to find any legal loophole that would deal with her problem. Unfortunately, even though he was a trained lawyer, there was no way for him to keep the internet under control.
Turning things around
Luckily, while everyone else was fixated on Allison’s appearance, CBS was interested in the way her newfound fame had affected Stokke. They turned her rise in popularity into a news story that focused on the dangers of talking about a young girl’s appearance.
They could see that the pole vaulter was incredibly talented at what she did, yet no-one was talking about her sporting prowess. They hoped to highlight the impact all these comments were having on her mental health. Maybe that would make them finally stop.
Impacting her mental health
Even though Allison continued to compete at events, her head was no longer in the game. She knew that at every competition she attended, there were people in the audience who were only interested in staring at her body.
It made her feel uncomfortable, but there was nothing she could do to stop them. The focus on her appearance was starting to impact her mental health significantly, and she felt the need to constantly lock doors behind her so she couldn’t be followed. She never asked for any of this.
Overlooking the talent
As the weeks turned into months, there was no sign that interest in Allison was slowing down. The pole vaulter publicly confessed how much it upset her that people only cared about her looks, rather than her talent.
She felt like she’d wasted all those years of training because no-one seemed interested in her athletic skill. Her name was now producing more than a million results online, but nearly all of those sites were talking about her appearance. It seemed there was nothing she could do to get people to stop.
Getting into college
Despite how much all this attention had affected her, Stokke was determined to put it behind her. She hoped that like every other craze, people would eventually get bored and move onto something new.
So, even though it wasn’t easy, the athlete tried to focus on her training. The hope was that she’d bag herself a scholarship at college. Thankfully, Allison was so talented that she had no trouble achieving this, and she soon became a student at the University of California. Finally, people were focusing on her sports skills again.
Balancing school and sports
Even though she’d already broken plenty of records during high school, college was merely another chance for Allison to push herself further.
Under the watchful eye of her coach, Stokke was able to go higher than she’d ever gone before, and it had a significant impact on her mental health. Allison became so dedicated to her sport that she often finished in the top ten whenever she competed. However, she made sure to devote plenty of time to her studies too, eventually graduating from college with a masters degree in sociology.
The Olympic dream
For anyone as talented as Stokke, the dream is always to compete at the Olympics. It’s the biggest sporting competition in the world, and it would allow Allison to show everyone that she’s more than just her looks.
After graduating, the pole vaulter continued to work hard at her discipline in the hopes she’d land a place at the London 2012 Olympics. It helped that she managed to set yet another record for herself, clearing a fantastic height of over 14 feet in the build-up to the Games.
Although Allison proved that she was capable of reaching 14 feet, she couldn’t manage it when it counted most. During qualifiers for the Olympic team, Stokke was unable to clear the opening height.
It was set at 13 feet 11 ¼ inches, so the pole vaulter was more than capable of getting over it, but a bad day saw her Olympic hopes get dashed. It was a tough blow for the athlete, especially as she’d been having such a great season. However, Allison was determined to look forward, not backward.
Becoming a model
With her pole vaulting dreams slipping through her fingers, Allison considered a change of career. In 2015, she started responding to all the modeling offers that came her way, despite her feelings about exploiting her looks.
There were many sports brands interested in getting Allison’s face alongside their products, and she couldn’t resist the temptation any longer. Stokke ended up signing a deal with Nike, appearing in promotions for both their spring and summer lines. The pole vaulter was surprised that she got a thrill out of posing for the camera.
A new perspective
It turns out that all the publicity Allison was receiving could actually be used for good. At one point, she teamed up with GoPro who helped the athlete show people at home the wonders of pole vaulting.
Videos were filmed of Stokke training, but they were shot from unexpected angles. They showed Allison clearing the bar from a sidelong view, giving viewers an exciting new perspective of the sport. There was hope that seeing her perform this way would stop people from watching her just because she was attractive.
Stepping back from the spotlight
Allison continued with her modeling work in 2016 when she advertised Uniqlo’s new collection. Although the promo very clearly focused on the athlete’s appearance, that didn’t stop her from agreeing to it.
However, since then she’s gone quiet on the modeling front. Afraid that all this work was giving more fuel to the people who leered at her, she decided to pull away from the spotlight. It was probably for the best, especially as none of these modeling campaigns focused on her skills as a pole vaulter.
Love is in the air
Stokke had no time to focus on modeling, not according to rumors anyway. In late 2016, there was a lot of talk about the pole vaulter being romantically involved with Rickie Fowler.
The pair were pictured together at a Motocross Grand Prix, and from there the two seemed to be inseparable. The more times they were seen in each other’s company, the likelier it was that they weren’t merely friends. However, the pair kept tight-lipped about their relationship status, choosing to keep the truth to themselves.
A dream of his own
It’s unsurprising that the man who caught Stokke’s eye was another sports star. Born in 1988, Rickie Fowler has spent most of his life working towards a career in golf, and it’s paid off.
The man’s dedication saw him land a place at the Rio Olympics in 2016 where he finished in 37th place. Although things didn’t turn out in his favor over in Brazil, Fowler has had a lot more luck at other competitions. He’s had a total of eight professional wins and finished 2nd in the 2018 Masters Tournament.
Causing a stir online
It seems that Allison isn’t the only one to have caused a stir with a photo. Fowler gained attention in 2016 after he and the rest of his team won the Ryder Cup.
It was the first time that America had managed this in eight years, so the golfers were all understandably over the moon. As they celebrated their win, they all made out with their other halves. However, being a single pringle, Rickie had no-one to kiss, so he just stood there and shrugged. The photo soon went viral.
Letting it slip
Although Allison and Rickie wanted to keep quiet about their blossoming relationship, other people couldn’t help spilling the beans. It was the latter’s golfing partner, Jason Day, who let slip that Fowler was no longer single.
During a press conference, he brought up the fact that Rickie had been absent from their meeting earlier on in the week. He clarified that the reason for this was because the golfer had been busy with his new woman, something the press couldn’t wait to start talking about online.
A match made in heaven
After Day outed the pair, there was no point in hiding their relationship any longer. The media were going to talk about them no matter what, so they might as well be honest with the world.
Both Stokke and Fowler started posting more of each other on their social media pages, with the press also getting photos of the two whenever they could. Soon enough, they were one of the hottest couples out there, and it looked like nothing would ever get between them. They were made for each other.
Watching from the sidelines
With the truth out in the open, the couple has no reason to pretend they’re not together anymore. So, Stokke is free to attend her boyfriend’s golfing championships and cheer him on from the sidelines.
She’s been pictured on the green plenty of times over the last few years, including at the US Open. We’re sure that having Allison there to watch him gives Rickie the confidence to play at his best, even if he does get nervous about messing up in front of her.
An impossible ultimatum
Unfortunately, while the pair might be all loved up, their relationship has had a negative impact on Fowler’s performance on the green.
At least, that’s according to the golfer’s coach anyway. He reportedly told Rickie that he had to decide between pursuing his career or being a social media star. The man was afraid that Fowler was getting too distracted by his girlfriend and wasn’t putting in the necessary time to train for his sport. However, judging by his recent wins, the golfer’s doing just fine juggling everything in his life.
Golfer in the making
When you enter into a relationship with someone, you’re bound to start sharing their interests. Although Alison had little experience with golf before, that all changed once she began dating Rickie.
Suddenly, Stokke wanted to try her hand at the sport, and over time she found her skills improving on the green. She might not be at the stage where she’s challenging her partner quite yet, but it’s clear Alison’s talents go beyond pole vaulting. We could be looking at a golfing pro here; she just needs a few more years.
A different person
With her life in a great place right now, it’s amazing to see how far Alison has come. The drama of that photo back when she was still in high school could have easily derailed her career entirely.
The experience messed with her head so much that Stokke was lucky it didn’t hinder her performance on the field. However, she came out the other side of that traumatic time stronger than ever. Look at her now. You wouldn’t believe she was the same person struggling with unwanted publicity.
Two sides of herself
Given so much time has passed since the photo of Allison was taken, a lot has changed in her life. However, she’s never forgotten the experience she went through back then.
During an interview, the pole vaulter talked about that infamous picture and how she feels about it after so long. Stokke was quoted as saying that she believes the woman in the photo and the woman she is now “are two different people.” She referred to it as an alter-ego, and that she only occasionally uses it to her advantage.
Although her failure to qualify for the Olympics left Allison devastated, that didn’t stop her from continuing to work hard on the field.
After the disappointment in 2012, she stayed focused on competing at the national level and started training in Phoenix where she enlisted the help of a new coach. Stokke was desperate to make it to the Olympics, especially after coming so close to the London Games. However, after a series of disappointments in the last few years, she gave up competing nationally in 2017.
Raising their popularity
Like it or not, the publicity Allison received from that photo did great things for pole vaulting. Before the infamous picture hit the internet, pole vaulters weren’t that well-known around the world.
Unless you were a fan of the sport, you probably couldn’t name anyone who did it. However, in the last decade, women involved in the discipline have become a lot more popular. Athletes like Sandi Morris and Eliza McCartney have gained recognition from the public, although a lot of the focus is still on the way they look.
Credit where credit’s due
The popularity of the sport has led to lists being made online for events like the Olympics. These include things like ‘The Hottest Female Pole Vaulters at Rio 2016’ which highlighted what the publication believed were the most attractive competitors at the last Olympics.
Although this raises the same problems that Stokke’s picture brought up back in 2007, the comments towards the women weren’t as demeaning as they were on ‘With Leather.’ It referred to the competitors as “fearless” and complimented them for excelling in what was once a male-dominated sport.
Learning to live with it
It’s been a long time since Allison first launched into the public eye, but that doesn’t mean interest in her has faded. She still receives letters from people, not all of which are particularly nice for her to read.
This is something that Stokke has grown used to over the years, and she’s learned to stop letting it get to her. It was particularly problematic while at college, where the University of California was forced to remove her picture from their site as everyone wanted a signed copy of it.
Slipping under the radar
Allison has definitely done her best to shun the limelight and live as normal a life as possible. She’s aware that plenty of other people would have used all the publicity to their advantage, but Stokke isn’t that kind of person.
She was never interested in becoming famous, especially if the only thing anyone cared about was her looks. She’d rather slip under the radar and be able to enjoy her privacy than spend her life in the spotlight. After all, she didn’t start pole vaulting to become a celebrity.
Less deserving of attention
Not only did Stokke not enjoy being talked about because of her looks, but she also believed other competitors were more deserving of the attention.
She isn’t embarrassed to admit that she wasn’t the best pole vaulter in the country when people started going crazy over her. There were plenty of other skilled women in the field who were just as attractive and talented, so why was all the focus on her? Allison will never understand what enticed people to her, but a part of her will always wonder.
Living without regrets
Stokke was so firm in her belief that she didn’t deserve all the publicity that she turned down plenty of lucrative offers. The pole vaulter had the chance to model for a variety of magazines and appear on their covers, as well as feature as a guest on popular talk shows of the time.
However, she refused them all because she didn’t feel she’d earned the attention. To this day, she never regrets turning them down because she knows her looks were the only reason they’d approached her anyway.
Growing up fast
Although the attention was all on Stokke, she wasn’t the only one having to deal with it. Her parents were also put through the wringer when their daughter became the center of attention online.
They hated seeing the effect the publicity had on Allison, with her mom recently commenting that the experience forced her to grow up quickly. A 17-year-old Stokke saw firsthand just how brutal people could be, and it changed her forever. On the plus side, it taught her to grow a thick skin and block out the haters.
Expressing her emotions
The emotional scars left behind by that experience have yet to heal. Even though it’s been over a decade since Allison’s photo was taken, she can’t forget what she went through.
The pole vaulter remembers a time when she was at college and was asked to write about something that had affected her emotionally. Naturally, she chose to talk about the experience with the photo, though the paper never saw the light of day. When given the option to share or delete it, Stokke opted for the latter.
While Allison admits that a part of her was flattered by the media’s attention in her, most of her was too overwhelmed to appreciate her new popularity.
She couldn’t get over the fact that what happened to her would essentially never happen to a male athlete unless they were at the top of their field. Stokke has had to work hard for the last decade just to get people to look at her for her talent, not her appearance, However, even now, people still can’t see past her being attractive.
Strong support system
It’s not just her boyfriend that stands by her side. As you can see, Allison has got herself a special support system of girls as well who are willing to stand with her through thick and thin.
Given the fact that her rough memories had a lot to do with the fact that she was a woman, it’s nice to see that she has fellow women to be with her if she ever needs anything. They understand what it’s like, and no one else can fill that sisterly void in the same way.
Perhaps the most inspiring thing about Allison Stokke is the way that she not only is moving on, but thriving in her own ways. More accurately, she doesn’t seem to have lost her sense for adventure.
She’s not afraid to post on social media, she’s not afraid to travel the world, hike on mountains, and share her experiences with the public. It was hard for her to be in the public eye, but she seems to be okay with it now.
In addition to her sense of adventure, Allison also has a silly side to her. After everything she’s been through, her fans are happy to see her in this light – letting loose, and not taking everything so seriously.
There’s a certain beauty in that. Sure, she might have gone through some overwhelming periods, but it’s important to sometimes laugh at yourself and realize things will be okay. In this Halloween unicorn shot, we totally get that vibe.
Her special Valentine
But of course it doesn’t hurt that she has a man in her life! In this picture that she posted on Instagram, she captioned it with the touching statement, “I’m kinda really incredibly head over heels for you. Happy Valentines Day!”
Whether you’re someone who likes adventure, someone who gets silly, or anything else for that matter – things are always a little better when you have someone you love in your life – and she’s got that with Rickie.
A happy life
No matter what we go through in life, all we can really hope for is the ability to mature and grow positively as a result. There are certain things surrounding us that we can’t control, and all we can do is try to react the best way we can.
Allison seems to be living happily these days, and she seems very settled in this new chapter of her life. For her fans, friends, family, and anyone else following her – that’s the best type of inspirational message we could hope for.
Springing into marriage
Rickie and Allison have certainly had their ups and down together, but as of late they’ve take their happiness to a new level. In Fall 2019, Rickie got down and one knee and asked Allison to marry him. Of course she said yes, and the two tied the know soon after.
Being married always has its share of obstacles, and even more so when the couple is constantly in the public eye. We have no doubt, however, that Rickie and Allison are in it to win it.