Shawn Barber, Canadian Pole Vault Champion and Olympian, Dies at 29

Sport Desk

Shawn Barber, the Canadian pole vault record holder and 2015 world champion, has died from medical complications at the age of 29, his agent Paul Doyle confirmed to CNN on Thursday.

Barber, who was born in New Mexico but held dual Canadian-American citizenship, set the Canadian world record for the men’s pole vault in January 2016, clearing 6.00 meters. He earned a gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto and also won the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China, later that year, becoming the first Canadian to win a world title in pole vault.

Barber made his Olympic debut at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games and reached the final, finishing 10th. He also competed at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, where he won a bronze medal.

Barber passed away at his home in Kingwood, Texas, on Wednesday from medical complications, according to a statement from the University of Akron’s athletics department. As a college student, Barber was a member of the University of Akron’s track and field team, where he was a three-time NCAA championship winner.

“Barber had fallen ill and had been experiencing poor health for some time,” the athletic department’s statement said. The university remembered Barber as “a well-liked teammate and competitor” in the statement.

“More than just an incredible athlete, Shawn was such a good-hearted person that always put others ahead of himself,” Doyle told the Associated Press, which he confirmed to CNN. “It’s tragic to lose such a good person at such a young age.”

Barber is survived by his brother David, his mother Ann and his father George, according to the University of Akron’s statement.

Athletics Canada, the national governing body for track and field

The Canadian athletics community mourned the loss of Barber, who was regarded as one of the best pole vaulters in the world. Canadian women’s pole vaulter Alysha Newman shared several photos and a lengthy caption in an Instagram post.

“I wish I could say heaven received another angel but if I’m being honest it was way too soon,” she wrote. “Shawn, my teammate, my dear friend and confidant. I’m honoured to have been in the same walk of life as you.”

Athletics Canada, the national governing body for track and field, also expressed its condolences on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Our thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of Shawn Barber, Canadian Pole Vaulter — 2015 World Champion, Rio 2016 Olympian and Canadian Record Holder,” the organization posted.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also paid tribute to Barber on X, calling him “a remarkable athlete and a proud Canadian.”

“Shawn Barber’s passing is a tremendous loss for the entire athletics community. My deepest sympathies go out to his family, friends, and teammates during this difficult time,” Trudeau wrote.

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