Athletics-Track-and-Field

Canadian Gleadle takes javelin title, Barber wins gold in pole vault

Canada's Elizabeth Gleadle and Shawnacy Barber won gold in women's javelin and men's pole vault, respectively at the Pan Am Games on Tuesday.

Canada claims 2 track & field titles at Pan Am Games

Canada's Elizabeth Gleadle, seen here in a previous event, won the gold medal in women's javelin at the Pan Am Games on Tuesday. ((David J. Phillip/CP Images))

After one of Shawnacy Barber's pole vault misses Tuesday morning, he looked over to the grandstand, where his dad George leaned against the railing, making exaggerated thrusting motions with his arms.

It was a coaching moment that has been repeated time and again over Barber's career.

The 21-year-old won gold at the Pan American Games on Tuesday — the latest highlight in a pole vault partnership between father and son that began when Shawnacy was just four, watching his dad compete.

"It's kind of a role reversal now," George said.

"I was out watching my dad jump all the time," Shawnacy said of his childhood. "I didn't really have anything else to do, so I'd jump on the mats and play on the trampoline. It was just an easy transition into pole vaulting for me."

Barber cleared 5.80 metres to win gold, about an hour after Canada's Elizabeth Gleadle kicked off the track competition with gold in women's javelin, throwing 62.83 on her sixth and final attempt.

The red-headed Canadian got off to a rough start Tuesday, missing badly at 5.40, explaining afterward that he'd just applied sunscreen and his hands were slippery. But one by one his rivals were knocked out, and after guaranteeing the gold at 5.80, Barber took three attempts — all misses — at 5.93, hoping to better his Canadian record of 5.91.

Barber captured both the indoor and outdoor NCAA titles this past season, and breaks his own Canadian record on a regular basis.

His main goal this season is next month's world track and field championships in Beijing, and boasting the fourth-best jump in the world this year, he should be considered one of Canada's top hopes there and at next year's Rio Olympics.

Argentina's German Chiaraviglio took silver at 5.75 and Jake Blankenship of the United States cleared 5.40 to finish third.

'Golden' Gleadle

The 26-year-old Gleadle, meanwhile, was trailing American Kara Winger when she stepped up to take her final javelin throw, clapping her hands to get the crowd going.

"I was thinking 'Oh no, I'd better get it together,"' Gleadle said. "I was standing there and I thought to myself 'I bet the Canadian anthem would sound a whole lot better from the podium if I was on it,' so that inspired me to throw better."

As the crowd of several thousand at the new stadium at York University clapped in unison, Gleadle was overcome with emotion.

"It's a pretty cool feeling," she said. "When everyone in the crowd is looking at you, and everyone is expecting you to perform, and you know that 95 per cent of the people in the crowd are truly rooting for you to do well. . . It's a pretty electrifying feeling, it's very whole-body, it's like your whole system just lights up like a Christmas tree.

"It's like if you've ever been in love and your heart is about to explode with happiness. It's that exact same feeling, when you realize how overjoyed you are."

The six-foot-one athlete first chucked a javelin in her Grade 8 gym class.

"I have a tendency to get carried away with stuff, and you say when you're 15 years old, 'I want to win gold at the Olympics,"' she said. "But you've got to remember there's a lot of ground work, there's a lot of years, there's a lot of hard basic work that needs to be done and you've got to keep yourself grounded to get where you want to be."

Gleadle also qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. 

Winger won silver with a 61.44-metre toss while Brazil's Jucilene De Lima took bronze at 60.42.

Melissa Fraser of Hillsburgh, Ont., finished seventh.

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