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Pole vaulter Shawn Barber aims to top his meet record, defend title at nationals

Defending Canadian pole vault champion Shawn Barber has overcome his struggles with consistency from a year ago, says his coach, putting him in line to top his 2015 meet record on Saturday at the track and field nationals (CBCSports.ca, 6 p.m. ET).

Toronto native clears 5.60m Wednesday at Diamond League meet in Switzerland

A confident and more consistent Shawn Barber will attempt to defend his pole vault title and improve upon his meet record on Saturday night when he competes in the men's final at the Canadian track and field championships in Ottawa. On Wednesday, Barber cleared 5.60 metres to finish seventh at a Diamond League event in Lausanne, Switzerland. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Pole vaulter Shawn Barber is in position to break his meet record at this weekend's Canadian track and field championships, according to his coach, despite mixed results this season on the Diamond League circuit.

Jeff Hartwig says the defending champion has overcome his struggles with consistency from a year ago, noting the 24-year-old Barber has met a variety of challenging conditions entering the senior men's final on Saturday (CBCSports.ca, 6 p.m. ET) at Terry Fox Stadium in Ottawa.

"This year has been much better for Shawn due to a higher level of confidence in competition when making adjustments," Hartwig told CBC Sports this week from Switzerland, where Barber competed Wednesday as the lone Canadian at the Athletissima Diamond League meet. "He has had everything from bad winds to rain and cold, but managed to compete well and in conditions more suitable to good performances."

On a warm and still Wednesday evening at the Stade de la Pontaise, Barber cleared 5.60 metres on his second attempt for a seventh-place finish. The 2015 world champion skipped attempting to clear 5.70 and re-entered the competition at 5.77, missing all three tries. Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie cleared 5.91 to win the competition for a fifth time.

Hartwig said the Lausanne event fit perfectly into Barber's schedule and gave him another chance ahead of the Canadian championships to refine the ongoing process of working out details and performing at a consistent level.

Shawn Barber's 2018 outdoor results:

  • March 31 -Texas Relays: 1st place, 5.92m (season best)
  • April 12 - Commonwealth Games, 2nd, 5.65
  • April 27 – Drake Relays, 4th, 5.50
  • May 12 – Diamond League Shanghai, 5th, 5.61
  • May 25 – Prefontaine Classic, 6th, 5.41
  • May 31 – Golden Gala (Rome), 7th, 5.52
  • June 3 – Hengelo FBK Games, 2nd, 5.65
  • June 8 – Dessau Anhalt 2018, 1st, 5.70
  • June 10 – Diamond League Stockholm, 5th, 5.66
  • June 13 – Golden Spike meet, 5th, 5.55
  • June 23 - Hof Stabhochsprung meeting, 1st, 5.40
  • June 30 – Diamond League Paris, 5th, 5.84

"There is usually no better substitute for building strength and confidence than competition-level excitement," Hartwig said.

Barber travelled to Lausanne ahead of the Canadian championships a year ago and improved marginally from the previous week in Paris, clearing 5.63 before winning in Ottawa with a height of 5.40 at a competition delayed by rain and poor conditions. His jump of 5.60 at the 2015 nationals remains the meet record.

Consistency evident in Paris

This year in France, Barber reached 5.84, representing the Toronto native's best performance since clearing 5.92 at the Texas Relays on March 31.

"Shawn was able to take advantage of a nice day for vaulting," said Hartwig, a former pole vaulter and a member of the U.S. Olympic teams in 1996 and 2008. "The consistency he has shown in setting himself up to compete at a high level came through in Paris.

"If the conditions are [ideal in Ottawa] Shawn is in a good position to establish a new meet record and perform in the area he was at in Paris."

About the Author

Doug Harrison

Doug Harrison has covered the professional and amateur scene as a senior writer for CBC Sports since 2003. Previously, the Burlington, Ont., native covered the NHL and other leagues for Faceoff.com. Follow the award-winning journalist @harrisoncbc

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