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Shawn Barber wins Canada's 1st at World Championships in 12 years

Shawn Barber wins Canada's 1st at World Championships in 12 years

Posted by PanamericanWorld on August 24, 2015

Competing against a star-studded field that included the reigning Olympic and world champions, Canada's Shawn Barber calmly put on a display of pole vault excellence Monday in Beijing to win the country's first world title in track and field in 12 years.

Canada's last gold medal at the world track and field championships came in 2003 when Perdita Felicien won the women's 100-metre hurdles.

Before Barber, a Canadian pole vaulter had never won a medal of any kind at worlds.

The 21-year-old dual citizen, who was born and raised in New Mexico and now calls Toronto home, entered the final at 5.50 metres. Renaud Lavillenie, the world record holder and Olympic champion from France, waited until 5.80m. The Canadian then cleared 5.65, 5.80 and 5.90m, each on his first attempt, to take the lead.

Lavillenie was successful at his opening height but then missed three times at 5.90, while Raphael Holzdeppe, the defending world champion from Germany, missed once at 5.80m and needed three tries at 5.90m before joining Barber in a gold-medal showdown at 6.00m.

Neither man had a good jump, but with fewer misses in the competition the gold belonged to the Canadian.

Barber's victory raised Canada's medal tally to four through only three days at these world championships. It followed Sunday's three-medal haul that included bronzes by sprinter Andre De Grasse and race walker Ben Thorne, and a silver from heptathlete Brianne Theisen-Eaton.

At the last world track and field championships, held in 2013 in Moscow, Canada won five medals.

"I don't think it has sunk in quite yet, and I'm looking forward to the next few days when it does," Barber said. "I was fortunate to be very consistent throughout the meet. That was the name of the game. I came in knowing that it was going to be a meet that came down to first attempts. I couldn't have asked for a better competition."

Barber said he was able to keep his nerves in check in his second appearance at the world championships.

"My whole goal is to make sure I keep my head down and make sure I remember to breathe. That's the biggest thing for me. You only get to do this once in a while."

The Canadian also took advantage of a sub-par showing by the favourite.

"I think Lavillenie was very confident coming into this meet, but of course it's always easier to chase than to be chased," he said. "So I know he didn't have the meet he was quite expecting or wanting. I think that will just make him hungrier for the next time."

Barber decided to forego the last year of his athletic scholarship at the University of Akron and turn professional this summer under the representation of Atlanta-based Doyle Management. His prize money for the gold-medal win was $60,000 US, and it's likely his Nike shoe contract includes medal bonuses.

Next he flies to Europe to compete in the Diamond League meets in Zurich and Berlin, where he will face Lavillenie and Holzdeppe, but this time as the world champion.

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