Allison Stokke, a former pole vaulter, should have brought her country honors in the international arena, but a picture of her in competition changed her life. Let's see what it was like and how her life was affected.
Born in southern California, Allison Stokke grew up in a loving, athletic family. She almost ended up in the same sport as her older brother, a distinguished national youth gymnast. Yet, she finally turned to another, which confronted her with an unusual challenge.
Stokke found her passion for pole vaulting, and her efforts on it soon paid off. When Stokke went to high school, she broke the national pole vaulting record for freshmen and set a new record with 13 feet and 5.75 inch clearance the next year. She went on to win the gold medal at the California State Championship. The teenage winner never expected that a disaster was coming.
One day, the budding athlete wanted to try a larger pole, but her miscalculation eventually led to a broken ankle and absence from the subsequent state championships. She had to receive immediate surgery and the recovery period lasted for up to six months. How would she deal with the hammer blow to her career?
Thanks to her physical fitness, the gifted sportswoman managed to recover from the injury and return to the sports field. As a senior student in high school, she won the California State Championship again. Plus, due to her success at the California State Championships, UC Berkeley offered her a scholarship. However, one picture ended up ruining her peaceful life before she'd even gone to university.
At 17, Stokke attended a competition in New York. A track and field website from her hometown took her pictures during the meet and posted them online, which wasn't that unusual. Surprisingly, one of the photos later became an Internet phenomenon.
Here is her picture that went viral. She was fixing her ponytail while holding the pole, preparing for the upcoming competition. We still feel it hard to believe that a run of the mill snap would receive so much unwanted attention and therefore change her career path. Everything was the result of a blog in 2008.
A sports blogger, Matt Ufford, shared the picture with his fans. Ufford made some controversial comments on the sportswoman's looks and titled the blog "Pole Vaulting is Sexy, Barely Legal." His followers also fanatically discussed her attractiveness and circulated it even further.
Within several weeks, a spectrum of international media covered her story, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, the BBC, and so on. They blasted how improperly Ufford had spoken of the picture given Stokke's age.
However, the blogger Matt Ufford refused to admit his mistake. He suggested the act was legal because he posted the picture when Stokke had just come of age.
Furthermore, the original photographer decided to sue the blogger to protect Stokke from more offensive comments. But it was too late by then. The picture had been published many more times than they could count. All the media coverage turned the young pole vaulter's life upside down.
Stokke suddenly rose to fame, but not in the way she wanted. She started receiving countless invitations for photoshoots. It seemed that people regarded her as a hot star rather than a remarkable pole vaulter. She once opened up about the sensation, "I feel like me and that picture are two different people."
When Stokke was stressed out, her parents lent her a hand. They supported her and hired a media consultant to deal with the issue.
Allison Stokke herself also tried to redirect the attention back to her identity as a pole vaulter. She even seriously talked about her passion for the sport in a PR film and uploaded it to Youtube. But the video didn't work. All the comments were full of admiration for her appearance. So, what would Stokke say?
Stokke revealed her feelings in an interview with the Washington Post, "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."
After she went to UC Berkeley, she established several records during her freshman year, and in her second year, she was acclaimed as one of the best pole vaulting athletes in the Pac-12 Conference.
Though Stokke reached All-American status as a university senior, she failed when battling for the 2012 US Olympic team in London. Sadly, her professional career came to an end. But her story in another industry was to be continued.
Finally, she could make peace with the fame that had come from her looks and became a model for several famous sports brands such as Nike, Uniqlo, and Athleta. Plus, she was featured in a Youtube vlog series showing off her athleticism. And she also started a new love life.
Stokke fell in love with Rickie Fowler. Like Stokke, he established his fame as a professional golfer at a very young age but suffered from acerbic online judgment. The two were definitely meant to be.
The pair made their engagement official a year later and got hitched in October 2019 in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. But it remains unknown where they had their honeymoon.
At present, Stokke has carved out her career as a fitness model and influencer operating worldwide. Though she rarely shares anything about pole vaulting, she has her voice on a bigger platform now.
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