Shawn Barber pushing limits at indoor world championships
Being world champion 'makes people think you're the person to beat'
The old saying "the sky's the limit" seems to apply to Shawn Barber.
But he's still pushing that limit, and breathing rarified air.
The pole vault world champion is competing this week at the IAAF world indoor championships in Portland, Ore., which present another chance for the Canadian to prove he's just beginning to make his mark in the sport.
The men's pole vault competition goes Thursday at 10:05 p.m. ET, and you can watch live on CBCSports.ca.
The 21-year-old had what could be described as a dream season in 2015, winning Pan Am gold, establishing a new Canadian record in his sport, and capturing the outdoor world title in Beijing in August.
"I think I'm on course to have some really good performances," Barber told CBC Sports during a sit-down interview in Portland.
But it seems the best may be yet to come. Barber re-wrote his national record en route to joining elite company this past January at a meet in Nevada.
Barber over 6.00meters. He's calling it a night! <a href="https://t.co/oso9nlxn2D">pic.twitter.com/oso9nlxn2D</a>—@polevaultelite
Barber didn't just become only the 19th man to join the six-metre club — he was also the youngest to accomplish that feat and just the ninth to clear that barrier indoors. Clearing six metres is akin to breaking the four-minute mile, in running, or hitting 50 home runs in a season; almost nobody does it.
"I think it's something that distinguishes you and it kind of sets you apart from everybody else," Barber said, calling it the highlight of his career. "To be able to do it so young, if anything else, it gives me a very bright future.
"Now I'm must trying to get to 20 feet," he said. "I'm really looking forward to jumping that."
Olympic final-calibre field
The indoor worlds, which run March 17-20, are another chance for Barber to make his mark.
Standing in his way for the title is French star Renaud Lavillenie, who is also a member of the six-metre club and cleared that mark (and then some) earlier this month.
Lavillenie is the top-ranked pole vaulter in the world, but Barber is a close second and could prove he's worthy of challenging that in Portland.
"I don't think that being an [outdoor] world champion has changed the game for me," he said. "It does put a target on your back. It makes people think you're the person to beat. But with so many great vaulters in the sport right now, it really is anybody's game going into any of these meets."
The strong, Olympic final-calibre field also includes Brazil's Thiago Braz who defeated Lavillenie at a meet in Berlin in February. The 2012 world junior champion has never climbed the podium at a senior-level championship but will be looking to break through ahead of the Rio Olympics.
Also in the mix is reigning world indoor champion Konstadinos Filippidis of Greece. The 29-year-old cleared 5.80m to win in Sopot two years ago and set a national record of 5.84m in his last competition in Clermont-Ferrand.
Canadians can follow the competition and Barber's progress with CBC Sports' exclusive live online streaming coverage at CBCSports.ca and via the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices, as well as additional coverage on CBC Sports' Road to the Olympic Games TV broadcasts.
For full streaming and broadcast details, click here.