Pole Vault Champion Shawn Barber Is Dead at 29 Following Health Issues


Jan. 19 2024, Published 9:40 a.m. ET

Shawn Barber at the World Championships in 2015.
Source: Getty Images

Following the news that Shawn Barber, a Canadian pole vaulter and former world champion, had died at just 29 years old, many who followed his career were in mourning. Shawn was one of the best pole vaulters in Canada's history, but following the news of his death, he was also remembered for the personal impact he had on those around him.

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Even as many remembered Shawn for his athletic exploits and his skill, some also wanted to learn more about how he had died. Here's everything we know about Shawn Barber's cause of death.

Shawn Barber preparing to pole vault in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
Source: Getty Images
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What was Shawn Barber's cause of death?

Shawn's death was first announced by his agent, Paul Doyle, who told the Associated Press that he had died at his home in Kingwood, Texas, on Jan. 17, 2024. Paul didn't reveal a cause of death, which means we still don't have a definitive answer as to how he died. The Associated Press did report that he had health issues, though, saying that he had died as the result of "medical complications."

Given that terminology, it sounds like Shawn's death may have been the result of some treatment he was receiving, but details around his death are still unclear. It's possible that in the days or weeks to come, more information will be unveiled about how he died. Shawn, who was just 29 years old, was also an athlete who presumably took pretty good care of his body, at least generally speaking.

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Shawn is still the Canadian record holder for pole vault.

Shawn, who won the world championship in 2015, was also an Olympic finalist at the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro. When Shawn won the title, he snapped a 12-year streak where no Canadian had won a world athletic championship. He hit his highest ever height of six meters in 2016, and that remains the Canadian record for the sport.

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Although Shawn competed for Canada, he was born in Las Cruces, N.M., and held dual Canadian-American citizenship. His father, George, was born in Canada and competed on behalf of the country in the 1983 pole vault world championships.

Athletics Canada, the governing body for Canadian sports, honored Shawn on Twitter following the news of his death.

"Our thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of Shawn Barber, Canadian Pole Vaulter – 2015 World Champion, Rio 2016 Olympian, and Canadian Record Holder," they wrote.

His agent added that, in addition to his skill as a vaulter, Shawn was also an invaluable friend and member of his family.

"More than just an incredible athlete, Shawn was such a good-hearted person who always put others ahead of himself. It's tragic to lose such a good person at such a young age," his agent explained to the Associated Press.

While some mysteries still exist around his death, many people are looking back at all that Shawn was able to accomplish in just 29 years, including a Canadian record that could stand for decades to come.

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