Allison Stokke is, perhaps, one of the more baffling cases of a truly inspiring and talented sports athlete, who never quite made it. Today, the 28-year-old is rather unfairly remembered for being a high school sex-symbol, which in actuality, she should be remembered for her talent, and what could have been.
A Promising Athlete
Stokke was born and raised in California in 1989 and took up pole vaulting at her local high school (Newport Harbor High School). By 15, she had won the US title, with an inspiring jump of 12ft. 6in (3.81m). Her amazing achievements would continue, smashing the record in 2004, and then again in 2005 with her 13ft. 5.3 in (4.11m) vault. Even after breaking a leg, this young athlete would go on the win the CIG California State Meet, twice.
Smashing records was what this athlete should have been celebrated for. However, in an era of rapidly advancing internet technology and social media, she gathered some rather unfortunate and unwarranted attention instead. In 2007, at the age of 17, Stokke (whilst waiting for her turn to vault) was snapped. The innocent enough photo made it onto the “With Leather” blog, and its audience of young men went wild.
The demeaning and sexualized comments Stokke faced certainly took their toll on her. Stalkers, television interviews and doors to modelling careers all opened for Allison, and that took the focus away from the young woman’s sports.
Not Meant to Be
Despite releasing a YouTube video about how to perfect your pole vaulting techniques (intended as a way of turning the focus on her back to sport) the comments continued. Even a CBS piece on the tribulations of the “abuse” didn’t stop the internet from commenting on her body, rather than her skills.
Her efforts in the sport were enough to win her a scholarship to university, and whilst there she continued to smash the record books. In the end, she graduated with a master’s degree in sociology and began to prepare for the London Olympic games in 2012. Unable to clear the 14ft heat, she was failed to make the team.
Having failed to make the Olympic Games, Stokke finally gave in to the demands from the modelling industry in 2015 (although only fitness modelling) posing for Nike, as well as working with Go Pro, Uniqlo, and Athleta. Now involved with US golfer, Rickie Fowler, Allison Stokke leads a quieter life, although she has taken up golfing herself alongside continued vaulting and still hopes to one day end up at the Olympic Games.
As for her achievements in pole vaulting, Stokke’s personal best (achieved in 2012) stands at 14ft. 3.5in (4.36m), which would have been enough to see her make the 2012 London Olympics, had that been her Olympic Trial attempt.
Today, Stokkes doesn’t gather the media attention she used to, although, with 6 million views, her GoPro YouTube videos show that there’s a lot of people still interested in Allison, and happily, for the right reasons. Perhaps there is still a second chapter which is yet to be written for this former American track and field great.