Canada’s 21-year old Pan Am Games champ and national record holder Shawn Barber is now a World Champion.
One of only two men to clear the 5.90-metre mark at Beijing 2015, Barber beat the likes of world record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France at that height, leaving only the Canadian and defending World Champion Raphael Holzdeppe of Germany to fight for gold.
Barber – the Canadian record holder – went into the 6.00m height with a clean card, nailing every one of his jumps on first attempt. However, neither he nor Holzdeppe – who hit 5.90m on his third vault – could clear the bar at 6m, handing the Canadian the gold for his better overall performance.
“For me it still hasn’t really hit and I’m calm about the whole situation because it hasn’t quite sunk in for me yet but I’m sure it’ll come soon,” Barber told IAAF.org following his triumph.
A dual-citizen and United States resident, Barber represents Canada to honour his father, George Barber, who was a Canadian pole vaulter and became Shawn’s coach while teaching the discipline at a school in New Mexico. The younger Barber puts Toronto down as his home on the international stage and attends the University of Akron in Ohio, where he is an NCAA champion.
“I’m sure (my dad) and my university coach (Dennis Mitchell) are very ecstatic right now and they’re looking forward to celebrating with me and seeing me after this.”
Coming into IAAF worlds, Lavillenie (who tied for the bronze medal with two Polish jumpers) had the world’s best mark of 6.05m, ahead of Holzdeppe’s 5.94m and Barber’s 5.93m. The Frenchman beat the Canadian at an IAAF Diamond League meet earlier this summer where Barber improved his own Canadian record to 5.93m, only four days after equalling the Pan Am Games record in Toronto at 5.80m to win gold.
“That was the whole goal was to be a medallist, to get on the podium somewhere,” Barber said reflecting on the season. “I knew if I came out, if I had a reasonable day I could give myself a good shot at that. To have everything turn out the way it did, I’m very happy with it.”
Barber’s win brings just the fifth gold medal at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics for Canada all-time, and the first since Perdita Felicien did it in the women’s 100-metre hurdles at Saint Denis 2003. It’s also the first Canadian pole vault medal of any colour at the worlds. The last major pole vault medal won by a Canadian was in the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, a bronze from William Happeny.
“We’re trying to change pole vaulting in Canada and make it a bit more of a great sport there. I’m very excited to see how next year is going to go, we have some great prospects there in Canada.”
Next year also brings Rio 2016, where Barber could end Canada’s 104-year drought on the Olympic pole vault podium.
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