The Soviet-boycott weakened the field in this event, mainly by keeping out the Polish vaulters and Soviet Sergey Bubka, who had won the 1983 World Championships and broken the world record four times in 1984. He would have been a heavy favorite, but as his later record at the Olympics would show, that did not always count for much.
In his absence the favorites were two Americans – Mike Tully and Earl Bell, and two Frenchman – Pierre Quinon and Thierry Vigneron. Quinon cleared 5.45 (17-10½) on his second attempt and then passed the next three heights. Tully, Bell, and Vigneron had first attempt clearances at 5.60 (18-4½). At 5.65 (18-6½), Quinon cleared on his first try, while Tully missed once and then passed to 5.70 (18-8¼).
Bell and Vigneron went out at 5.70 (18-8¼). Quinon cleared on his first try at that height. Tully jumped after Quinon in the order and since he was behind, he passed again. Same thing at 5.75 (18-10¼) – Quinon over on his first effort, and Tully passes, trying to win the competition. At 5.80 (19-0¼), Tully missed three times and the gold medal was Quinon’s, Tully second with his 5.65 (18-6½) clearances, and Bell and Vigneron sharing the bronze medal.