In the infamous photo, Stokke is competing in a high school meet. She is, in that moment, an athlete, just as she is now. The year the viral photo was taken, she was 17 years old and the best high school vaulter in the country. In the picture, she is strong, her body taut.
Of course, that’s not why the photo went viral — not really. The image tore across the web because men thought she looked hot. Part of that “hotness” is certainly her strength, her body, which also helps make her a better pole vaulter.
But let’s not kid ourselves: very few people ogling the photo saw Stokke through the athlete prism. They saw sex. Hubba, hubba.
The picture is like a Rubin vase for sports. What do you see when you look at the photo: a female athlete preparing to vault, or a sexy young woman striking a pose?
If most people see only sex, even though Stokke was literally in the middle of a competition, and if she does not want to be a sex symbol and really loathes the idea, then how does she continue being an athlete? If society has intertwined those two identities, how does she go about being one without reinforcing the other?
“I feel like me and that picture are two different people,” Stokke says. “I feel it has taken on a life of its own. It’s like that picture is my alter-ego and sometimes I feel like I use it for a positive force, and sometimes I just choose to leave it out there and not engage with it.”
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.
Back in 2007, Allison Stokke was “just another” talented and ambitious American track and field athlete. She broke several pole vaulting records and had a side job as a model. Stokke was only a high school senior when someone took her photo during a competition and posted it online. The photo went viral and was shared thousands of times before the news producers picked the story and made it official: Allison Stokke was a viral phenomenon.
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.
Stokke tried to take everything in her stride during this time and continued to compete even though there was now an entourage at every athletics meet-up she went to. However, Stokke admitted that the attention had affected her mentally after she described the whole thing as terrifying and completely against her own will. She even realized that she had to start making sure all the doors were now locked behind her to stop anyone being able to get to her! That’s got to be a pretty horrible way to live.
During 2015 the superstar athlete took a different route in her career as she hung up the pole briefly to try her hand at a modeling career. With sports brands clamoring to get an opportunity to have the star model their lines, Stokke eventually accepted some offers. She was featured in the spring and summer collections for Nike, while also posing in a number of different outfits for Athleta. Her modeling career was just another success for the athlete.
Hole in one
Even though Allison never managed to qualify for the Olympics, she still participates in pole vaulting competitions. When she’s not doing that, you’ll typically find Allison modelling for international sports brands, like Nike. Allison can also be found frequently hanging out with her now-husband, Rickie Fowler. Yes, you read that correctly. The two tied the knot in 2019 and could not be happier. From one athlete to another, it’s safe to safe that Allison putted a hole in one.