February 28, 2024

Shawnacy Barber, a world champion pole vaulter, died Wednesday at the age of 29.

Barber died at his home from “medical complications” in Kingwod, Texas.

Barber was a back-to-back NCAA champion in 2014 and 2015 at the University of Akron before winning gold at the latter year’s world championships in Beijing representing Canada.


Canadian Shawnacy Barber competes in the pole vault men’s event during Golden Gala Iaaf Diamond League Rome 2018 at Olimpico Stadium in Rome on May 31, 2018. (Matteo Ciambelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

His 6.00-meter jump in 2016 remains a Canadian record – he jumped at 5.91 at the 2015 Texas Relays in college, then an NCAA record.

He participated in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where he finished in 10th.

Barber was born in New Mexico and held dual citizenship in Canada, as his father, who also competed in world championships for the pole vault, was born in Ontario. 

Tributes poured in following the news.

“More than just an incredible athlete, Shawn was such a good-hearted person that always put others ahead of himself,” his agent, Paul Doyle, said Thursday. “It’s tragic to lose such a good person at such a young age.”

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

Shawnacy Barber of Canada applauds the crowd in the Men’s Pole Vault final during athletics on day eight of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games at Carrara Stadium on April 12, 2018 on the Gold Coast, Australia. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)


“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 honored 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. With Shawn around there was never a bad day. With him, heaviness was lightened, tears turned into laughter and every bad jump day, he had two drinks in-hand to help pass defeat. These weren’t even the best parts of Shawn. 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.

Shawn Barber after winning goal

Gold medalist Shawnacy Barber of Canada poses on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Men’s Pole Vault final during day four of the 15th IAAF World Athletics Championships Beijing 2015 at Beijing National Stadium on Aug. 25, 2015 in Beijing. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)


“Today I am sad but tomorrow I’ll be thankful for the love, the advice and adventures we had because that is what Shawn would have wanted. 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.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.