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If you aren’t scanning the web all day like me, you may not know that Allison Stokke is an Internet sensation. The talented young pole-vaulter recently set a women’s indoor pole vault record at the University of California, Berkeley with a mark of 3.99 meters. Her Internet fame is due not to her vaulting abilities, however. Rather it’s due largely to a single photo, made before she was even in college. (Just Google her name; you’ll find the shot.) Yeah, the whole thing is a little creepy. The girl was in high school when she became just another bit of cultural buzz. If you want, you can even download screen savers of her.
But it’s not like we haven’t leered at athletes before. Some pictures of that type have of course even become iconic. The standard will always be the shot of Swedish high jumper Gunhild Larking, taken by Life magazine photographer George Silk during the 1956 Olympic games in Melbourne, Australia. Silk had been covering the games with a wide-angle camera but wasn’t producing anything noteworthy. Then he saw Larking, and followed her as she waited to compete in a heat. She didn’t win any medals, but Life’s editors noted that she did win many hearts.–David Schonauer