She was exhausted. The competition had been grueling and taken all of her focus. When she got in the zone to make her jumps, she completely forgot about the rest of the world and stopped paying attention to the stands, even if all eyes were on her.
Being an athlete, she was used to pictures of her being taken. But she had no way of knowing that one picture could potentially end her entire career. Would people ever see her for the fierce competitor she spent her life training for? Had all of her sacrifices been for nothing? How could this young woman lose her entire future in one flash?
Allison Stokke was born on March 22nd, 1989. Her family was extremely athletic, and her brother David competed in the California national gymnastics team. Allison enjoyed attending his meets, but gymnastics wasn’t the sport she excelled in.
At first, her parents were hesitant. They didn’t know much about this sport and gymnastics felt safer. How could they accept the sport their daughter wanted to do? No one had any idea how much more danger she was about to be in. If she had stayed in gymnastics her life would have turned out very differently. Would anyone even know her name?
Allison’s parents were prepared for their daughter to be competitive but she wanted to be the best. She was focused on being number one everywhere! Allison didn’t want to do gymnastics, she wanted to focus on pole vaulting. First, she would have to convince her parents to let her participate.
Allison’s sport of choice involved running towards and vaulting over a pole at staggering heights. Olympians reach peaks of 18-20 feet, but the chance of injury is high. Were Allison’s parents going to let her follow her dreams and launch into the sky, or would they fight to keep her on the ground? Every day that she started training only brought her closer to a disastrous fate.
Due to her gymnastics training, Allison had a great awareness of her body and was incredibly flexible. There weren’t a lot of other young girls competing in pole vaulting and she was impressing crowds and college recruiters. She wasn’t used to being the center of attention and realizing everyone was watching her left her feeling vulnerable.
Allison focused on the positives. She loved the adrenaline rush and the feeling of flying. Allison began dedicating every single hour before and after school to practice. She was spending a lot of time getting people to take her seriously. If Allison had known how one photograph would change her life, would she do it all differently? Due to her impressive fitness levels, would anyone look beyond her looks and recognize her talent?
When Allison was 14 years old she began competing at a national level. She was already winning high school and local tournaments, and she was ready to be on a global platform. Every vault was a leap of faith into a bigger career! She was hungry for success but had no idea about the cost she would pay.
As a high school freshman, she won the CIF California State Championship. She had grown up in this neighborhood but it was still weird being stopped at the grocery store, or during the school hallways. What would happen when other athletes and commentators found out about this young superstar? Would Allison ever be able to control her privacy again? The young star was about to feel the entire world watching her every step.
While other teenagers were focused on high school drama, Allison was training to make history. At 15 years old she broke another record winning the U.S title. She had just leaped over 12.5 feet. Allison felt unstoppable and wanted to only train harder and achieve more titles.
Allison’s parents were beginning to get concerned. They obviously wanted their daughter to be successful but was this attention from the press healthy? They noticed how much time she was spending reading comments on social media and that she could lose sleep over bullying. The family had no idea what catastrophe was in their future. Would these parents ever forgive themselves for not protecting their baby girl?
At sixteen years old, most teens are taking driving lessons. While most teens are getting behind the wheel, Allison was getting a new world record. After this day, there would be no going back to a quiet life in suburbia. The entire world began to take notice of the talented young athlete.
In her second year of high school, Allison jumped a new personal best and achieved 13 feet, 5 ¾ inches. Even more impressive was this level of height had never been achieved by a sixteen-year-old. In a blink of an eye, her sweet innocence would be ripped away from the press and her whole career thrown into a tailspin. How would Allison handle the vultures and wolves that wanted more from her young body?
Every teenager thinks they are invincible. They are young and strong so that an injury seems imaginary. Allison was the same, and she trained every day to make her body the strongest it could possibly be. However, no matter how hard you train, bones can still break. As Allison’s confidence grew she began to follow instincts and missed one important life-threatening detail.
In 2005 while training for that year’s state championship one fatal error cost Allison her season. When you are an athlete at her level you can do the motions without realizing that one wrong step can end your entire career. What had she done and would she ever recover? Was Allison going to be able to heal and come back stronger, or would she fade to a memory of the past?
At her practice facility, Allison decided to try a bigger pole. She was set to reach a new record this season and would need the larger instrument for success. Was Allison shooting for something out of her reach?
The young athlete was training non-stop but noticed the new piece of equipment didn’t feel right in her grip. She assumed she would need to get used to it and decided to do a practice vault regardless. If she had only taken one more minute to think it through, her life would have been so different.
As Allison began to run towards the vault she wasn’t feeling confident. It could have been a number of things but she wasn’t entirely focused on the jump. As she leaped into the air she already knew her body was in the wrong position.
She realized in the air that she was about to get injured and there was nothing she could do. With a sickening crack she landed in the concrete launch box. The impact snapped her tibia and she stared in horror at her crushed ankle. Would this one mistake cost her an entire career?
The pain was unbearable but Allison wanted one answer, would she require surgery? Even as her coach and family prepared to take her to the hospital it was the one question the young athlete asked.
The family held their breath as the doctor entered Allison’s room. His face looked grim and Allison felt her stomach twist in knots. What else did she have in her life besides pole vaulting? Before he spoke, she already knew it wasn’t good news. How would she handle this massive change?
At 16, Allison had already broken records and was on track to be one of the most successful female athletes. This injury was taking a year off her training, with no guarantee of how she would return.
With the break in her tibia, she would need surgery and two screws in her ankle. She would be able to compete again but it would be after completing physio and rehabilitation for four to six months. What would happen to her career if she didn’t train for a year?
Allison and her team confirmed that she would be recovering for the rest of the season. Speaking with a local paper, the young athlete was clearly distressed. “I’m really upset because I was aiming for state. I haven’t peaked this season yet and I’ve put in a lot of hard work that won’t go fulfilled.”
While it was clear Allison was upset, were her parents secretly relieved? Their young daughter had been receiving a lot of attention that made them uncomfortable. Hopefully, after a year the press would focus their attention elsewhere. They had no idea how much worse it was about to get.
Allison didn’t know what her future held but taking a year off for recovery felt like the ultimate punishment. She was used to training every day, and now there were weeks when she didn’t go to the gym or the practice vault.
She took her rehabilitation seriously. As she began to develop her strength again, for the first time she was scared. What would happen when she returned to the vault? Would she fall again or lose her impressive records?
Finally, Allison received the green light from her specialist. She was ready to return. She was thrilled and motivated. She didn’t want people to think she had lost her skill or strength. She attacked her practice vaults with new aggression.
Her first competition back was at CIF California State Meet. Was it possible only four years ago she had been a freshman and won the entire tournament? She felt the pressure from the crowds and took a deep breath as she ran towards the vault.
At her first competition back she cleared a new record of 13 feet, 6 inches. It was her new personal best and earned her 2nd place and the meet. She held her head high and felt good. She had come back stronger and could still break the 14 feet mark.
She had junior nationals in a few weeks and this was the confidence boost she needed. Allison was so talented but she was also an attractive young lady. It wouldn’t take long for the internet to turn her life upside down.
At her junior national competition, she came in 8th place. Allison was frustrated and expected more of herself. It was at this moment that she wasn’t paying attention and a photographer captured an image of her.
As an athlete, Allison was used to having her picture taken while competing. This picture, however, had sinister reasons and would haunt her for the rest of her life. It would only be a couple of days before this picture was plastered everywhere, ruining Allison’s life.
While Allison was resting in between vaults a photographer from a track & field snapped a picture of her. The young athlete is photogenic and clearly fit from hours of training for her sport. The original placement of the photograph was completely respectable.
With female athletes, there are a select group of men that will focus on their appearance instead of their skill. Allison was only 17 years, not even an adult. Would this stop a darker audience from tearing her down?
A website popular for showcasing attractive female athletes was gaining traction and fan base. The site was called ‘With, Leather’. It was curated by editor and sports blogger Matt Ufford.
Ufford was known for sexist and demoralizing content towards female athletes. When one of his readers sent him a picture of Allison, he knew it was perfect content for his site. What would he say about the young athlete?
As a true wordsmith, Ufford got to the point. He acknowledged Allison was under 18 years old but didn’t stop the amount of harassment the picture garnered. The picture and blog post went live and quickly went viral.
Back in her hometown Allison had no idea that filthy content and dialogue were happening. She was still focused and training daily, happy to be fully recovered after a long rehabilitation. Would this negative attention side-track her career?
Ufford didn’t mince his words describing the lewd actions and thoughts Allison created in his mind. It was complete filth, but his audience ate it up. In fact, it was even more shocking how Ufford’s comments were received.
His followers garnered so much attention the original photographer found out. When he took this picture of Allison it was for her athletic abilities. The original photographer was mortified. Could he do anything to get the picture taken down?
Which side of the law would this case land? On one hand, the original photographer had shared an image of an athlete on a public site – but on the other hand, the comments and derogatory nature of Uffords conversation had to stop.
When the picture was taken Allison was under 18 years old meaning she was a minor. Would her family press charges against Ufford’s smear campaign against their daughter? Everyone anxiously waited to see how the court and state of California would rule.
The image was being shared on multiple platforms and pretty soon Allison couldn’t leave the house without hearing about it or seeing it. After working so hard to earn titles and break world records, she was only being discussed for her age and appearance.
It became difficult to leave the house and she developed anxiety. As her parents sat and comforted her they were fuming! What could they do to protect their daughter? How many young female athletes were made fun of online?
One of the weirdest things that happened was a tribute website for Allison. She was still an active athlete but a tribute website highlighted only her past accomplishments. It didn’t take long for male fans to find the site and use it as fresh footage.
The comments were never positive and left Allison feeling disgusting. This was also having major implications on her career. She was receiving so much negative attention that brands and sponsors were hesitant to work with her. Would she lose everything she had worked towards?
It became so bad that Allison completely stopped leaving the house and refused to compete. New photos were circulating that had been tampered with and were completely derogatory to the young athlete.
She was meant to be at the peak of her career but all anyone could talk about was her appearance. When would the press finally take the time to listen to Allison’s side of the story? Why wasn’t Ufford being punished?
Instead of shaming the content creator, national media outlets focused on Allison. They began to focus on how the young athlete had allowed her career to be ruined from one photograph. When in reality, the athlete had never even been asked how she felt.
She was overwhelmed. The conversation focusing on her looks was not what she wanted to be known for. There were also sinister effects including stalkers and constant emails or phone calls. How could Allison take back her life and try to be in control of the dialogue?
Allison thought that if she could also put out content on her pole vaulting skills, people would realize her incredible talents and leave her physical appearance alone. Instead after posting a detailed tutorial with a FAQ on pole vaulting, the comments were the same.
The youtube video got over 10,000 views minutes after being posted but all the comments focused on asking Allison on a date or wondering if she would do modeling. While the internet thought this young girl wanted to be known for her looks they were missing that she wanted to be appreciated for her skill. Would Allison have to sacrifice her ambitions to be taken seriously?
Allison’s father was a lawyer and was desperately trying to find a solution for his daughter. He wasn’t familiar with working with social media and copyright laws, plus there was just so much content to go through. Every day a new photo or fan site would appear for Allison, and yet they all had the same terrible motivations.
One news channel did attempt a story that focused on the dangers of non-consensual photographs, but no one had punished Ufford yet. Would this sports blogger face no consequences for his actions?
Allison needed to continue her academics and got accepted to the University of California. She joined their track & field team and tried to keep her focus on breaking more records. In her first year with the school, she broke the freshman athlete record!
The record-breaking height was an easy 13 ft 5¾ in for Allison. That wasn’t even the highest she had accomplished before arriving at University. Later that year she also competed in regional meets. It was clear that she still loved sports but no matter where she went people recognized her photo before her talent.
While Allison continued to compete through University she also wanted to reach her life-long goal of making it to the Olympics. She wasn’t having as much success as a college athlete and wasn’t sure if she would make it to the Olympic trials.
In 2012 she finally made her goal of vaulting over 14 feet. The elusive number she had been trying to jump since high school. With this new surge of confidence, she felt her chances were good for the Olympic team but were they good enough?
At the Olympic trials, Allison failed to clear 13 ft 11¼ in. Suddenly her dreams and years of hard work were dashed. She took it extremely hard especially since she had previously cleared that height.
Was it time to stop focusing on athletics and find out what else she could do? She had been an athlete for so long that she wasn’t sure what else would hold her attention or keep her motivated. She took a deep breath and began to explore different opportunities, but would any fit her like pole vaulting?
Stoke graduated with a degree in sociology and still occasionally competed in pole vaulting. She did attend several competitions after the initial Olympic trial fails but she never matched the same potential she had while growing up.
It was incredible that Allison’s name was so well known but for the wrong reasons. How would she use her connections as an adult to carve out a life she was proud of and hold her head high for other athletes?
In 2015 Allison decided it was time to finally give modeling a chance. From a young age, she had been told how pretty she was, maybe it was time to embrace her physical appearance and passion for fitness.
Allison secured a deal with Nike and was featured in their spring and summer campaign. Outside of photography, had this young athlete found love or happiness? It looks like the answer to both is a hole-in-one for this superstar.
In a bold move, the well-known golf athlete massaged Allison through Instagram. They were first connected in 2017 and made their relationship public in April. Friends are guessing they were speaking for at least a month before they went public.
In a YouTube interview, Fowler says from Allison’s profile he could tell she had the kind of energy he liked to be around. She looked fun and energetic and could obviously hold her own athletically. Was this finally a happy ending for the social media angst star?
Allison and Ricky tied the knot in 2019 at a beach destination wedding. It was an intimate affair with only friends and family in attendance. This year, they took their followers by surprise and announced they were expecting their first child together.
The couple leads a healthy and happy lifestyle and has confirmed they are expecting a daughter at the end of 2021. Both of their social media accounts were full of congratulatory messages and exciting hopes for the future.