There were three favorites in 1976 – Americans Dave Roberts and Earl Bell, and Poland’s Władysław Kozakiewicz. But Kozakiewicz struggled, could only clear 5.25 (17-2¾), and finished 11th. Six vaulters remained in the competition after 5.45 (17-10½) – Roberts, Bell, Poland’s Tadeusz Ślusarski and Wojciech Buciarski, Finland’s Antti Kalliomäki, and France’s Patrick Abada.
At 5.50 (18-0½), Abada and Bell passed. Ślusarski, Kalliomäki, and Roberts cleared that height on their first try, and Buciarski missed once and passed to 5.55 (18-2½). That was the end of the clearances. Roberts passed to 5.60 (18-4½) where he missed three times, while the other vaulters all missed at 5.55 (18-2½).
Tadeusz Ślusarski won the gold on countback, using the fewest vaults tie-breaker, over Kalliomäki, as both had no misses thru 5.50 (18-0½). Roberts was bronze medalist as he had missed once at 5.35 (17-6½).