TORONTO — Shawn Barber’s first day back on home soil as a professional athlete didn’t go quite as smoothly as planned.
The newly crowned world pole vault champion’s trip home from Europe took three flights. The luggage — including his world gold medal — had yet to arrive. And he still hadn’t managed to secure a hotel room thanks to the Toronto International Film Festival.
Barber and his dad George sat guzzling coffee at a downtown cafe Wednesday morning in the same clothes they’d been wearing for nearly two days — Shawn in a red Canada jacket, George in a black version of the same one. Shawn talked about the whirlwind past couple of weeks.
“Absolutely (crazy). I’ve worked more since the summer started than I have all year of being in the NCAAs,” Barber said of the added demands of meeting with the media and sponsors.
“It’s a lot more difficult than some people give it credit for. I don’t want to say it’s work, because it’s all very enjoyable for me, but it is a lot of early mornings and late nights.”
The 21-year-old won gold at the world championships last month in Beijing — Canada’s first-ever world pole vault medal, and first gold since Perdita Felicien’s hurdles victory in 2003.
A couple of days later, he turned pro by signing a deal with Nike, opting to forgo his final NCAA season at the University of Akron. He’ll continue to train and take classes at Akron.
“For me it was pretty clear, a pretty easy choice after winning world championships,” said Barber, who won one NCAA outdoor title, and two indoor titles. “I think that my best bet for good competition and quality meets next year is to go pro and to expose myself to those larger meets.