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On Monday, Olympic pole vaulter and world champion Shawn Barber came out publicly as gay.
Shawn Barber wrote on Facebook:
“Gay and proud! Thank you to my parents for being such a great support. I continue to grow as a person and have a great support group. My parents are my greatest support and have helped me through a lot recently. To my friends, you are always my friends and I love you too!”
Barber becomes one of the highest-profile and successful out athletes anywhere in the world. The 22-year-old is one of the best vaulters in the world and the best Canadian vaulter ever. He holds the Canadian indoor and outdoor records. In 2015, Barber broke the NCAA indoor record in the pole vault and went on to win the IAAF World Championship in Beijing.
At the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Barber placed tenth in wet and windy conditions. After the Games, Canada’s Sport Dispute Resolution Centre announced Barber tested positive for cocaine prior to the Games, but was permitted to compete as the use was found to be inadvertent.
An outpouring of love from Barber’s fans followed after making the announcement. One fan wrote, “Very proud of you! It is so important to have leading sport figures such as yourself to a lot of gay kids out there who sometimes may feel that sports is not for them!”
Another wrote: “I know for a fact when I came out is when I became a happy individual. People don’t realize the pain that is felt in the closet and faking straight relationships. Proud of you! I thought I was one of the only pole vaulters to be openly gay.”
“Now you can truly be you and hopefully inspire other LGBTIQ young people to live a free, open and honest life being their true selves,” another fan says. “We are gradually get closer to the day when it doesn’t matter.”