The Story Behind Pole Vaulter Allison Stokke’s Innocent Viral Photo

By: Mia Williams | Published: Sep 10, 2023

The internet is known for making people famous. Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube enable users to post and share content easily. Some users make viral content popular, others learn that a video or picture they posted innocently can quickly become an internet sensation.

Social media users may post pictures and videos innocently. However, the results aren’t always desirable. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened to an innocent 17-year-old high school athlete from California named Allison Stokke.

Surrounded by Sports

Allison Rebecca Stokke was born in 1989 into a family of athletes. The southern California native spent her early years with her parents. She was introduced to sports at a tender age, given that her elder brother, David, was a talented gymnast.


Source: Kirby Lee/WireImage

Although David was successful and competed at a national level, Allison didn’t find gymnastics a fit. However, this didn’t kill her dream of becoming an athlete. She went ahead and searched for a new sport that she enjoyed.

Finding A New Sport

Allison settled on pole-vaulting after a thorough soul search. She started the then-new sport at a young age while attending Newport Harbor High School. It was out of sheer force of will that she decided to do this sport. Allison was ready to pick up the pole and run towards the bar.


Source: Kirby Lee/WireImage/Getty Images

Allison wasted no time mastering her craft. She ended up becoming one of the most successful pole vaulters in the United States at her age. At 15, she jumped 12.5 feet, winning the country’s title. But, despite being successful at the beginning, something horrible happened, almost threatening her newfound sport.

A True Prodigy

Allison’s potential as a pole vaulter was evident in her years at Newport Harbor High School. It didn’t take her long to win and set personal and national records. Her hard work had started to pay off. Although she was new to the sport, she recorded a promising performance.


Source: Kirby Lee/WireImage/Getty Images

In 2004, she jumped 12 feet-7.75 inches and set a new record. The following year, she vaulted 13 feet-5 ¾ inches, breaking her record. She also won the CIF California State Championship.

The Huge Hitch

In her senior years, Allison had a busy schedule. But although she had a scrupulous training schedule, she was able to balance her career and studies. She was quickly becoming recognized when something terrifying happened.


Source: Kirby Lee/WireImage/Getty Images

One day, Allison experimented with a different pole. Training with a larger pole would help in improving her pole vaulting skills. Unfortunately, as she was running to the bar, she misjudged the height she needed to jump. As a result, something terrible happened.

A Long Recover

After the miscalculation, Allison landed violently, breaking a bone in her ankle. The injury was so serious that she needed surgery. She couldn’t practice or participate in any competitions for months. Defending her records became impossible.

Source: Kirby Lee/WireImage/Getty Images

It took six months for Allison to recover and return to pole vaulting fully. But, despite being absent for such a long time, she was optimistic that she’d bounce back stronger. Little did she know that she’d be trending in a viral post in the following days.


The Return

Allison didn’t give up and continued to work hard even after the injury. She continued to practice, preparing to participate in future competitions. And when she finally participated, she didn’t disappoint as she won the CIF California State title again.

Source: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Allison also got a scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley, after high school. At this time, it seemed as if everything was going well for the young sports star. But, little did she know that her life was about to take a new turn.


The Infamous Photo

Allison was already participating in various pole vaulting competitions in high school. One day, she was in New York taking part in one of these events. She was only 17 years old. As she was waiting for her turn, a photographer took her picture.

Source: Kirby Lee/WireImage/Getty Images

Allison’s photo was then posted on a California Track and Field Website. Although an innocent bystander had taken the photo, it turned her into a household name. Once the photo was posted online, it became available to everyone who uses the internet. 


Going Viral

At the time the photo was published on the internet, social media sites weren’t as vibrant and popular as they are today. Facebook and other social media platforms didn’t have millions and billions of users globally. However, that didn’t stop the photo from going viral.


As you see in the above photo, Allison was waiting patiently for her turn. At face value, the photo seems nothing out of the ordinary and may not even seem like viral content. However, it was not until the photo was featured in a notorious blog that it went viral.


Sexualizing an Innocent Athlete

Allison’s photo was re-published by the blog called “With Leather.” The blog targeted male users and used photos of young women. Although Allison was a minor at the time, this sports-centric blog featured her photo.

Source: Den of Geek

As if posting Allison’s photo was not enough, the blog commented on her appearance. The comments had nothing to do with her talent or career. Shockingly, the blog created a headline that only made matters worse for the innocent athlete. The goal was only to attract their clients’ attention.


The Shocking Headline

“Pole Vaulting is Sexy, Barely Legal” was the headline accompanying Allison’s photo. It was featured in the blog two months after the photo was initially published online. Although the photo was taken when Allison was 17, she had turned since 18 when this shocking headline appeared.

Source: Kirby Lee/WireImage/Getty Images

Matt Ufford, the blog owner, wrote this infamous article. It was not right for him to use this young woman’s photo primarily because she was a minor. Attempts to take legal action against the website were made. However, it was too late.


The New Internet Crush

After the publication of Allison’s first photo online, things moved too fast and got out of control. Many websites published more photos of this promising athlete. She became the ‘internet crush’ of many male users on a myriad of different websites.

Source: The Big Lead

Allison dominated websites and blog posts globally within a short time. In addition, mainstream media companies like the BBC and the New York Times covered the story, further worsening the situation. Finally, the original photographer decided to protect the innocent girl by taking legal action against the blog owner.


Too Little Too Late

After learning how the photo had a disastrous effect on Allison, the original photographer sympathized with her. The photographer approached the With Leather blog owner and threatened to take legal action if the photo was not pulled down.

Source: Boredom Therapy

Unfortunately, by the time the photographer took this action, it was too late as Allison’s photos were already available all over the internet. Many blogs, media sites, and other websites had the photo, and it was impossible to take down the photo from all sites. As a result, Allison’s life took a turn for the worse.


Trying to Take Control

Allison didn’t wish to get all the attention she was getting. Although she was a successful athlete, she wanted media attention to strictly focus on her skills. She was a happy high school student and a talented pole vaulter. However, her life was taking a wrong turn and could worsen if she didn’t act swiftly.

Source: Youtube

It was not easy for Allison after the image-damaging incident. The number of emails and phone calls that she received overwhelmed her. In addition, there were countless interview and photoshoot requests. Fortunately, her parents were there to help her take control of the situation.


Getting Some Help

Allison’s parents approached a media consultant to manage the increased media attention revolving around Allison. Since most people were already associating her with her beauty and physique, there was a need to showcase her as a fantastic athlete as well.

Source: Allison Stokke Instagram

The internet had become uncomfortable and scary, and Allison had to devise ways to use the same internet to overcome these challenges. She created her own YouTube channel where she showcased her talent and talked about her profession. Also, she shared educational information on how vulnerable young women’s photos and videos could go viral without their consent.


The Uncontrollable Internet

The internet had made Allison infamous. However, this was a blessing in disguise, given that her popularity grew, gaining many internet followers. The number of photographers attending pole vaulting events that she participated in more than doubled. She was just a student but was receiving attention that she couldn’t cope with.

Source: Allison Stokke Instagram

On Facebook and other social media platforms, many impersonators created fake profiles claiming to be Allison. It became increasingly hard to differentiate between what was genuine and what was fake. Allison’s father decided to take things into his own hands and used his experience as a lawyer to sue anyone riding on his daughter’s fame.


Family Support

Allison was lucky that she had a family she could turn to when life became unbearable. She didn’t have to go to the internet to find what users were saying because her parents were always there for her. What a supportive way to avoid cyber bullying! Alisson and her parents talked about their experience with the Washington Post.

Source: Allison Stokke Instagram

Here is what Allison said:

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. Nobody really sees me.


Taking Over Her Talent

Sure, Allison beat all odds and completed high school. After posting an impressive 4.0 GPA, she was ready to join university. Fortunately, she got a full athletic scholarship from the University of California, Berkeley. The good news is that this environment gave her the chance to continue with her pole vaulting career.

Source: Worldation

As a freshman, the incredible pole vaulter won and broke several records. Later, she maintained a low profile and was not active on social media. But, she still ranked as one of the best pole vaulters in the Pac-12 Conference in her sophomore year.


U.S. Olympic Team

Allison continued working hard on her pole vaulting career and hoped to represent her then-new country in international competitions. She always emerged among the top 10 in every pole vaulting competition she participated in during her university years. In her senior years, she earned All-American status.

Source: HyperActivz

Allison finally managed to join the U.S. Olympic team to represent the country in the 2012 London Olympics. But, unfortunately, despite training like never before, she didn’t qualify. So, now that her dream to participate in the Olympics was over, she had to look for something else to do.


A Modeling Stint

In 2015, Allison decided to try her luck in a different career. Although she had been in sports since her childhood, she took a new direction and became a model. This was in response to the many requests she received from major sports brands.

Source: Allison Stokke Instagram

As a model, Allison worked with prominent apparel companies such as Nike, Athleta, and Uniqlo. She also collaborated with GoPro on an offer she couldn’t decline. She would go on to post several videos of pole vaulting through YouTube.


Finding the Love of Her Life

The news of Allison dating Rickie Fowler, a professional golfer, surfaced in 2017. The two love birds had several things in common, among them was their interest in sports. The two attended the Motocross Grand Prix hand in hand. They also posted their photos together on their Instagram accounts.

Source: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Rickie started playing golf at a young age. He was once the Number 1 amateur in the world before going professional. He participated in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and the U.S. Open. Although he has never won a major golf competition, he regularly ranks top-10 in these events.



It didn’t take long for Allison and Rickie to get engaged. The two were determined to stay together. Since their relationship went public, the two have been showcasing their love to the whole world.

Source: Allison Stokke Instagram

Allison and Rickie got married in October of 2019. However, the wedding was attended by only 48 people, who were either immediate family or friends. Although the couple originally planned to hold the wedding at Baker’s Bay in the Sea of Abaco, they had to change the venue after Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas.



Pro golfer Rickie and pole vaulter Allison exchanged their wedding vows in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Afterward, the new couple embarked on a special honeymoon. Of course, everyone wanted to know where they were going for the honeymoon, but they kept everyone guessing.

Source: Brett Davies/USA TODAY Sports

According to some reports, Puma, the company sponsoring the pro golfer’s career, sent them its private jet. The couple reportedly went to Cape Town, South Africa, for a honeymoon. However, what is evident is that, after the wedding, the couple decided to spend some time away from the media.


Just Living the Life

Allison is currently very active on Instagram, where she keeps her fans posted. She shares photos and videos that indicate she’s doing fine. However, her social media activities aren’t just about herself. She features her husband in the posts as well.

Source: Allison Stokke Instagram

Allison is still a fitness model. Social media has helped her reach millions of people around the world. Her fans can learn about her pole vaulting journey in some pictures and videos she shares online. She’s an inspiration to many young girls aspiring to become professional athletes.


The Life of Female Athletes

The sexualization of female athletes is one of the most pivotal problems faced by people like Allison. Gone are the days when women athletes had to observe stricter dressing codes than their male counterparts. The dangers of portraying women as sex objects can be seen through this very story of Allison Stokke.

Source: Warren Little/Getty Images

Despite being a talented athlete, Allison found herself being praised for her beauty and physical appearance. Unfortunately, the internet has made it even harder for the authorities to control this behavior. Everyone needs to learn that sexualizing athletes affects their physical and mental well-being.


Lessons Learned

The internet community should unite to condemn and fight the sexualization of female athletes. Despite working hard to become a successful pole vaulter, Allison became popular for different reasons. Subjecting women to this kind of harassment can make it hard for them to succeed.

Source: Ryan Young/PGA TOUR

Although the internet is a good tool when used properly, it can be a dangerous element to cyberbullying. Allison was only 17 when she was photographed, yet this didn’t stop faceless online personalities from trying to stalk her. Before portraying a photo in any way, it’s important to consider the effects of such actions.


A Role Model

Despite becoming a victim of the media sexualization of female athletes at a tender age, Allison bounced back successfully. The move didn’t stop her from shining in both education and athletics at high school. She continued pole vaulting during and after university.

Source: Allison Stokke Instagram

As mentioned, Allison is an inspiration to young girls aspiring to become athletes. Her story can help those at the risk of being victimized by preparing them psychologically. When the situation happened to Allison, she turned to her parents and professionals for assistance. Any person facing similar issues should seek immediate help from experts and close family members.


So Far So Good

Allison and her husband are currently living a wonderful life. She has a lot of time to spend with her spouse since she has taken a break from pole vaulting. The former sportswoman has recently been sharing photos and videos at the golf course. In addition, she has been accompanying her husband to various golfing events, becoming his number-one cheerleader.

Source: Allison Stokke Instagram

A few years into their marriage, everyone asked when their first child would come. Given that the two are athletes, one would assume that they’d raise a child with similar athletic interests. However, on June 22, 2021, the couple made an important announcement.


More Good News

Rickie and Allison announced on their Instagram account that they were expecting their first child. The couple got pregnant during the pandemic. The young family had planned to keep the news secret. However, they confessed that they were too excited when they learned about the pregnancy.

Source: Allison Stokke Instagram

Rickie and Allison are expected to welcome their new family member in November of this year. After four years of being together, they hope that the expected girl will strengthen their relationship. In addition, maybe the baby will give them a reason to concentrate more on their careers.


The Story of Allison Stokke

Allison is one of the few people who managed to move forward in life after tough situations. But, as she once noted, women are quite vulnerable to sexualization as athletes. Although she was not at the top of her game, her photo went viral because she was a woman.

Source: Kirby Lee/Getty Images/WireImages

Allison was able to turn an otherwise ugly situation into an amazingly inspirational story. She used the fame she got from the infamous photo to go into modeling and discuss her situation on YouTube. As a result, she’s a role model to many who struggle with the negative effects of the internet.