The world record holder, Renaud Lavillenie of France, entered as the reigning Olympic champion from 2012 and held the best vaults indoors and out before the competition. The 2015 World Champion Shawnacy Barber of Canada ranked just behind, having had his first six-metre clearance that season. One of Brazil's best athletics medal hopes was Thiago Braz da Silva, the 2012 World Junior Champion (ahead of Barber), who had the third best mark of the year. The American champion Sam Kendricks was also highly ranked and had won silver at the 2016 World Indoor Championships behind Lavillenie. In the qualifying round, nine men reached 5.70m with three others progressing on 5.60m. An injury-affected Raphael Holzdeppe, a former world champion and Olympic medallist, exited at this stage, as did 2011 world champion Paweł Wojciechowski. Both Barber and Braz required three attempts at their opening height but managed to progress. Braz, Kendricks and Greece's Konstadínos Filippídis showed form as the only athletes to clear 5.70m in one attempt. After one attempt by Xue Changrui, the final round was delayed for one hour and restarted from scratch due to a rainstorm that passed through.
Six competitors had already exited the competition before defending champion/world record holder Renaud Lavillenie took his first attempt at 5.75 m. Among the eliminated was 2015 World Champion Shawnacy Barber.
There was a great deal of strategic passing in this event, place meaning everything in the Olympics as opposed to most other competitions where the fraternity of pole vaulters are all seeking to improve their personal best. The medalists were settled with a first attempt clearance of 5.85 m. Jan Kudlička and Piotr Lisek missed once and strategically passed to 5.93 m where they missed, while Xie had already strategically passed to 5.85 m and missed.
Sam Kendricks was high over his bars earlier in the competition but could go no further than 5.85 m and had to settle for bronze, while Lavillenie held the lead with a clean round of first attempt clearances to 5.98 m (the latter improving his own Olympic record from London). Home town favorite Thiago Braz cleared an outdoor personal record of 5.93 m on his second attempt to surpass Kendricks. Jumping ahead of him, after Lavillenie cleared 5.98 m, with nothing to be gained by a clearance, Braz passed. At the next height, 6.03m (19ft 91⁄4in) after Lavillenie had missed twice, on his second attempt, Braz made a solid clearance. Lavillenie passed to the next height, 6.08 m. Even though he holds the world record, that was set in controlled conditions indoors, 6.08 m is a height he has never cleared outdoors. These conditions, with rain and wind affecting competitions all across the Olympic venues, were anything but controlled. Lavillenie missed and the Olympic title was settled. Braz set a new South American Record, a 10cm improvement over his own record.
The clearance remains tied with Okkert Brits and Jeff Hartwig as the ninth highest jump in history, and currently stands as the Olympic record. At 6.03 m, Braz was the highest jumper for first time entry into the Six metres club.The following evening the medals were presented by Bernard Rajzman, IOC member, Brazil and Roberto Gesta de Melo, Council Member of the IAAF.