Another One… World Champion Pole Vaulter Dies Suddenly from “Medical Complications” at 29

by J Pelkey
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A former world champion pole vaulter died suddenly on Thursday at the age of 29.

Shawn Barber, a three-time NCAA champion at the University of Akron in Ohio, died from “medical complications,” as stated in a news release by the school’s Department of Athletics on Thursday.

While the specific cause of the athlete’s death was not revealed, the university mentioned that he “had fallen ill and had been experiencing poor health for some time.”

The release characterized Barber, who became the Zips’ first male individual national champion in 2014, as a “well-liked teammate and competitor.”

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His agent, Paul Doyle, confirmed that he passed away at his residence in Kingwood, Texas, as reported by the Associated Press.

“More than just an incredible athlete, Shawn was such a good-hearted person that always put others ahead of himself,” Doyle told the AP.

“It’s tragic to lose such a good person at such a young age,” he said.

Doyle Management shared the news of the loss on Instagram, describing Barber as a “friend that will never be forgotten.”

Barber, who held dual citizenship in the U.S. and Canada, established an NCAA championship meet record with a jump of 19-4.75 in the 2015 indoor championships. This surpassed the previous mark of 19-2.25 set by Jacob Davis of the University of Texas in 1999, as reported in the University of Akron news release.

He secured a gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto and represented Canada in the 2016 Olympics, finishing in 10th place.

Barber continued his presence on the world stage that season in Beijing, securing a gold medal against Germany’s Raphael Marcel Holzdeppe.

Merely a year later, Barber participated in the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, advancing to the finals but ultimately falling short against Brazil’s Thiago Baz.

Barber’s most impressive vault was 19-8¼ on January 15, 2016 during a competition in Reno, Nevada, which still stands as the Canadian record.

His last competition took place in January 2020 in Germany.

Barber is survived by his mother, Ann, his father, George, and his brother, David, as stated in the news release.

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