Canadian pole vaulter Shawn Barber dies at the age of 29 due to medical complications at his home in Kingwood, Texas, on January 17, 2024. A record-breaking champion and Olympic finalist.
Born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Shawnacy “Shawn” Barber had an upbringing with connections to both the United States and Canada.
His family split time between Toronto and New Mexico, where he honed his pole vaulting skills at a young age, using his father’s old equipment to clear ditches on the family farm.
Barber burst onto the athletic scene as the U.S.’s best high school pole vaulter, shows his talent and determination.
He first competed at the age of seven, seeing pole vaulting as a game to pass the time in the barn. His journey continued as he became a standout student-athlete at the University of Akron, where he secured back-to-back NCAA indoor titles in 2014 and 2015.
In 2015, Barber achieved a series of milestones that made his status as a pole vaulting legend. He clinched the gold medal at the Pan American Games in Toronto, a proud moment for Canada.
The pinnacle of his career came at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China, where he secured the gold in the men’s pole vault final.
Competitors such as Germany’s Raphael Marcel Holzdeppe and France’s Renaud Lavillenie gave tough to barber, Barber’s victory in Beijing is Canada’s first world medal in pole vaulting and the country’s first athletics world title since 2003.
Barber’s journey reached another pinnacle at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Making his Olympic debut, he navigated through the competition to earn a spot in the final.
Although the gold eluded him, the experience of representing Canada on the grand Olympic stage was an achievement to his dedication and skill.
Shawn Barber’s personal best vault of 6.00 meters, achieved on January 15, 2016, in Reno, Nevada, stands as the Canadian record.
This feat showcased his athletic prowess and also his place in the record books. His six-meter vault remains a record to his skill and determination.
Barber had problems, including health issues that plagued him in the later years of his career. The toll of his dedication to the sport and the rigors of competitive athletics took a toll on his well-being.
The University of Akron’s athletics department acknowledged his struggles, addressing his resilience and commitment to the sport even in the face of adversity.
Shawn Barber’s impact in the track. Described as a well-liked teammate and competitor during his college years, Barber was a great athlete and also a good-hearted person.
His agent, Paul Doyle, addressed Barber’s selflessness, noting that he always put others ahead of himself. The outpouring of condolences from around the globe is a testament to the positive influence he had on those who knew him.
In 2017, Shawn Barber made an announcement about his personal life. In a social media post, he bravely came out as gay.
News of Shawn Barber’s passing resonated across the globe, with tributes pouring in from athletes, fans, and sports organizations.
The Athletics Canada community expressed condolences, remembering Barber as the 2015 World Champion, a Rio 2016 Olympian, and the Canadian record holder. Polish pole vaulter Piotr Lisek made Barber as one of the best pole vaulters in the world.
Doyle Management, Barber’s management agency, shared the news on Instagram, calling him “a friend that will never be forgotten.”
The agency’s post celebrated Barber’s achievements, highlighting his role as the 2015 World Champion in pole vaulting.