Allison Stokke is an accomplished track and field athlete who became a champion pole vaulter while she was still in high school. Unfortunately, she also garnered unwanted attention as a sex symbol when pictures of her were plastered on the internet with some very inappropriate comments.
Yet Stokke was able to move past the disgusting chatter and make quite a happy and successful life for herself. Here’s a look into this impressive athlete’s life and what she’s up to today.
Allison Stokke Was A Very Successful Pole Vaulter
Stokke was born on March 22, 1989, in Newport Beach, California. She joined the track and field team when she was in high school and quickly became one of the best pole vaulters in the country. In 2004, she broke the American record for a high school freshman with a vault of 3.86 m and set a new record as a high school sophomore in 2005 with a vault of 4.11 m. Her vaults were also the best achieved by an American aged fifteen and sixteen, and by her senior year, she ranked second in the national high school rankings with a new best of 4.14 m. In 2007, she finished eighth at the national junior championships.
After high school, Stokke attended the University of California, Berkeley, where she excelled in collegiate pole vaulting as part of the California Golden Bears track team. She broke records during her freshman and sophomore years and continued to perform well during her junior and senior years. Post-college, she earned a new lifetime best with a 4.36 m vault and began training for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
A Photo Of Her Went Viral That Nearly Derailed Her Career
Unfortunately, Allison Stokke received attention for more than her impressive pole vaulting skills. In 2007—when she was just 17 years old—pictures of Stokke competing at a pole vaulting event were added to a Californian track and field website. A few months later, one of the images was reposted by the comedy-sports blog With Leather, which had a mostly male audience. The picture was posted under the heading “Pole Vaulting is Sexy, Barely Legal” (Stokke had turned 18 in the interim) and accompanied by the grossly suggestive comment, “Meet pole vaulter Allison Stokke… Hubba hubba and other grunting sounds.”
Within a matter of weeks, the pictures became an internet phenomenon, earning millions of hits and sparking inappropriate, sexualized comments about the then underage athlete. While people continued to leer and ogle, news outlets across the country began to debate the moral ramifications of using the internet to publicly sexualize a young girl while completely de-valuing her athletic accomplishments.
Stokkes, for one, was disgusted by the attention, which had everything to do with her looks and nothing to do with her talent. “Even if none of it is illegal, it just all feels really demeaning,” she told The Washington Post in 2007. “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.”
Unfortunately, there was nothing Stokkes could do legally to put an end to the photo-sharing and lewd comments. As unfair as it all seemed, the only thing she and her family could do was try to move past it, which they did.
In a 2016 interview with ESPN.com, Stokke 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. 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.”
What Is Allison Stokke Doing Now?
While Stokke failed to place at the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials, she continued to pole vault professionally. But she also found success as a sportswear model, appearing in campaigns for big brands such as Nike, Athleta, and Uniqlo. She also partnered with GoPro to produce exciting first-person pole vaulting videos that ended up receiving millions of views on YouTube.
In 2017, Stokke began dating professional golfer Rick Fowler. The couple tied the knot in 2019 in an intimate beachfront wedding in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. “I’ve always looked forward to that moment walking down the aisle,” Allison told Vogue. “It was pretty incredible to see him out there smiling and all of our close friends and family looking back.”
While Stokke hasn’t competed professionally in pole vaulting since 2017, she’s become a successful sports model and can often be seen supporting her husband on the golf course.