Out Gay World Champion Pole Vaulter Shawn Barber Dies Aged 29 

Out Gay World Champion Pole Vaulter Shawn Barber Dies Aged 29 
Image: File photo - Shawn Barber. Image: Gareth Patterson/ AAP Photo.

Out gay World Champion pole vaulter Shawn Barber has died from medical complications at the age of 29. 

Barber’s management agency, Doyle Management, announced his death on Instagram on Thursday, writing, “A friend that will never be forgotten. Canadian Olympic Pole Vaulter Shawn Barber has passed away.” 

The world champion pole vaulter won the 2015 World Championships in Athletics in Beijing and had three NCAA titles during his time at the University of Akron. He became a Pan American Games champion after winning the 2015 edition of the Games with a height of 5.80 m and won a bronze medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. 

Barber passed away at his residence in Kingwood, Texas on Wednesday. His agent Paul Doyle confirmed the news of his passing to the Associated Press (AP). 

‘More Than An Incredible Athlete’

While the exact cause of his death remains unknown at this time, it has also been revealed that Barber had been dealing with ongoing health challenges.

On Thursday, Doyle described Barber as  “more than just an incredible athlete”, adding that he was “such a good-hearted person that always put others ahead of himself… It’s tragic to lose such a good person at such a young age.

The Canadian athlete came out in 2017, sharing the news on Facebook in a post where he wrote, “Gay and proud! Thank you to my parents for being such a great support. I continue to grow as a person and have a great support group. My parents are my greatest support and have helped me through a lot recently. To my friends, you are always my friends and I love you too!”. 

In 2016, Barber tested positive for traces of cocaine in a drug test before the 2016 Rio Olympics. According to a report from the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC), Barber consumed cocaine on July 8, the evening before securing the Canadian title in Edmonton, during a sexual encounter with a woman. 

The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport had proposed a four-year ban from competition, but Barber wasn’t suspended and instead was stripped of his 2016 national title.

Tributes For Shawn Barber 

Canadian women’s pole vaulter Alysha Newman shared her condolences in a heartfelt post on Instagram.

“I wish I could say heaven received another Angel but if I’m being honest it was way too soon.

Shawn, my teammate, my dear friend and confidant. I’m honoured to have been in the same walk of life as you. To many, Shawn is known as one of the greatest male Pole Vaulters of all time but to me, Shawn changed the way I lived life”, she wrote. 

“Shawn was so selfless. He would go above and beyond to make sure everyone around him was good before he was. He never missed a “thank you” or a gesture to show people how thankful he was for their help.. He would want us to remember all the amazing times he impacted your life and remind us all that there is always more to life”, she added. 

Barber was a finalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics’ pole vault event, which was won by Brazil’s Thiago Braz.

On January 15, 2016, the pole vaulter achieved his highest vault at six meters in Reno, Nevada. His mark remains the Canadian record. 




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