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Out gay champion pole vaulter Shawn Barber dead at 29

Out gay champion pole vaulter Shawn Barber dead at 29

Shawn Barber
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Barber shattered records in Canada and bravely came out of the closet in 2017.

Shawn Barber, an out gay champion pole vaulter, died from medical complications. He was 29.

The Canadian athlete died Wednesday at home in Kingwood, Texas. The cause of his death is not known yet, but he had been experiencing health issues.

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

Barber bravely came out in 2017, just two years after he won gold at the 2015 World Championships and one year after he finished 10th at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.

“Gay and proud,” Barber posted on Facebook at the time. “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!”

Barber attended the University of Akron, where he was a star pole vaulter, winning back-to-back NCAA indoor championships in 2014 and 2015. He also took home the gold at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing and the Pan-Am Games later that same year.

Barber remains the Canadian record holder for pole vaulting. His 2015 outdoor personal jump of 5.93 meters is the current national record, and his 2016 indoor personal jump of 6.00 meters remains the Canadian Indoor Record. He also still holds the NCAA Collegiate Indoor Record with a jump of 5.91 meters.

On Thursday, Doyle posted a carousel of photos of Barber on Instagram, writing, “A friend that will never be forgotten.”

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Ariel Messman-Rucker

Ariel Messman-Rucker is an Oakland-born journalist who now calls the Pacific Northwest her home. When she’s not writing about politics and queer pop culture, she can be found reading, hiking, or talking about horror movies with the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network.

Ariel Messman-Rucker is an Oakland-born journalist who now calls the Pacific Northwest her home. When she’s not writing about politics and queer pop culture, she can be found reading, hiking, or talking about horror movies with the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network.