Shawn Barber wins pole vault gold at world championships

Shawn Barber won the gold medal in the men's pole vault event Monday in Beijing to give Canada its first world title in track and field since 2003.

Gives Canada 1st world title in track and field since 2003

Wins Canada's first world title in track and field in 12 years. 0:53

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.

Hughes 'didn't have it' in steeplechase

Matt Hughes of Oshawa, Ont., finished eighth in the men's 3,000m steeplechase final in a time of 8:18.63 — his fastest time of the season, but far off the Canadian record of 8:11.64 he set two years ago when finishing sixth in the world championship final.

"I know so much hard work went into training this season and it was so much better than my training in 2013 and 2014," Hughes said. "I think I 'm in shape [to run] 8:05 but I just didn't have it today."

Kenyan runners occupied the first four places, with Ezekiel Kemboi winning his fourth straight title by taking a tight race in 8:11.28 ahead of Conseslus Kipruto (8:12.38). The bronze medal went to Brimin Kirputo in 8:12.54.

Canadians well back in 10K

Canada had two entries in the women's 10,000m — Vancouver's Natasha Wodak and Lanni Marchant, who is best known as the Canadian women's marathon record holder but has been focusing on the 10K (what she calls her "B" event) this year. 

The early pace was slow before Kenya's Vivian Cheruiyot and Gelete Burka of Ethiopia fought over the last kilometer, with the Kenyan prevailing in 31:41.31.

Marchant finished 18th in 32:22.50, far off her personal best time of 31:46.94. She is planning to run a fall marathon next.   Wodak had no explanation for her 23rd-place finish in 32:59.20. Earlier this season she set the Canadian record of 31:41.59 in Palo Alto, Calif.

Earlier in the day, Carline Muir of Toronto advanced to the women's 400m semifinals with a seasonal-best performance of 51.70.

With files from CBC Sports

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