Allison Stokke: Finding her way

Finding her way for Allison Stokke was not the easiest of things to accomplish. After blasting into fame due to a photo posted online, Stokke had to deal with unwanted attention from internet trolls and excessive exposure. For a kid still in high school and just wanting to master the sport of pole vaulting, becoming a viral sensation was the last thing on her list of to do’s

Who is Allison Stokke?

Allison Stokke was born and raised in California by parents, Allan (a lawyer) and Cindy Stokke. As a youngster, Allison competed in gymnastics nationally but early on found the sports was not for her, even though she was achieving success.

Finding her way, Stokke found pole vaulting was her passion. She felt she had what it took to succeed and began to hone her craft and quickly rose in the ranks to become one of America’s youngest in the sport. At the age of 15, stoke succeeded in jumping 12.5 feet.

As Stokke entered her high school freshman year, she pushed harder and began setting records. In 2004 Stokke beat her own record jumping 12 feet, 8 inches and then later beat that record by jumped 13 feet, 5.75 inches.

As her senior year got under, the juggling of school and training was tough on the star athlete. It was at this time that Allison began to generate both national and international attention in the sport of pole vaulting. As she rose to the top of her sports, she again set a new personal best of 13 feet, 6.75 inches, however, things were about to change, and not for the better.

The now famous photo

In 2007, life was good for the high schooler, however, while in completion, a photographer took a picture of Stokke, who was 17 at the time, as she was in line waiting her turn to jump. The photograph was posted online and later reposted on a blog site that catered to men wanting to view pictures of younger women.

This saw Stokke becoming an internet sensation, for all the wrong reasons as the caption under her blog posted picture was demeaning. It led to Allison having to deal with trolls and unwanted attention, taking her focus away from the sport and having to lean on her father for legal support in dealing with the trolls and constant republishing of her picture. The original photographer threatened legal action for the picture to be removed from the blog, but for Alisson, it was too late, and the damage was done, the internet owned her picture, and little could be done about it.

The positive to come from this was a warning to young women by CBC Sports about how easy it can be to have young women who are vulnerable become public figured. The segment focused on the dangers and negative effects of the internet and social media. The hope was that in doing so, young women would become more educated on those risks and act appropriately to prevent them from happening.

Allison Stokke

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.

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