Tributes pour in following death of gay Olympian and world champion pole vaulter Shawn Barber

Barber holds the Canadian record for longest vault with his personal best of 6.00m.

Action shot of Shawn Barber pole vaulting. His side profiled is photographed from the stomach up, as he runs with a pole in his hands.
Image: filip bossuyt via Wikimedia Commons

Gay Olympian and world champion pole vaulter, Shawn Barber, has tragically passed away. The 29-year-old died at his home in Texas on Wednesday, January 17, having suffered from health issues before succumbing to medical complications.

During his time at the University of Akron, Barber earned three NCAA titles for pole valuting. In 2015, he won the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, and the Pan American Games. He competed in the Rio De Janeiro Olympics in 2016, where he finished in 10th place, and at the AIT International Grand Prix in Athlone the same year where he smashed the stadium’s record. Additionally, Barber currently holds the Canadian record for longest volt with his personal best of 6.00m.


The athlete came out as gay in 2017, through a message posted on Facebook.

“Gay and proud! Thank you to my parents for being such a great support. I continue to grow as a person and have a great support group,” he wrote.

Tributes have poured in in response to the tragic news of Barber’s death.


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

Doyle Management Group described Barber as “A friend that will never be forgotten”.

His alma mater, the Univesity of Akron, said he was a “well-liked teammate and competitor” who “enjoyed a distinguished collegiate career”.


Fellow Canadian pole vaulter Alysha Newman mourned her teammate and friend in a heartfelt Instagram post which read, “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,” she continued.

“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.”

Newman concluded, “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”.


Shawn Barber is survived by his mother Ann, father George and brother David.

© 2024 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

Support GCN

GCN has been a vital, free-of-charge information service for Ireland’s LGBTQ+ community since 1988.

During this global COVID pandemic, we like many other organisations have been impacted greatly in the way we can do business and produce. This means a temporary pause to our print publication and live events and so now more than ever we need your help to continue providing this community resource digitally.

GCN is a registered charity with a not-for-profit business model and we need your support. If you value having an independent LGBTQ+ media in Ireland, you can help from as little as €1.99 per month. Support Ireland’s free, independent LGBTQ+ media.

0 comments. Please sign in to comment.