Four years after winning his first Olympic gold medal in the pole vault, France’s Renaud Lavillenie was closing in on a second consecutive gold medal after clearing 5.98 meters (19-7 ½) on his fourth attempt of the night without a miss.
But on his second attempt to clear 6.03 meters (19 feet, 9 ¼ inches) Brazil’s Thiago Braz da Silva did just that, and after Lavillenie missed at 6.08 meters Brazil had its second gold medalist of the Rio Olympics. Thiago Braz’s gold medal-winning attempt established a new Olympic record, surpassing the mark set by Lavillenie in London.
Taking the bronze was American pole vaulter Sam Kendricks, who earned his first Olympic medal just under five months after he took silver in the pole vault and the World Indoor Championships in mid-march. After successfully clearing 5.85 meters (19-2 ¼) Kendricks, who attended Ole Miss, failed to clear 5.93 meters on each of his three attempts at that height.
Thiago Braz, who joins judoka Rafaela Silva as Brazil’s gold medalists thus far in Rio, has not finished better than 14th in either of his appearances at the World Championships (senior level: 14th in 2013, 19th in 2015). And at the World Indoors in March, he finished 16th.
His winning the gold medal, beating the defending Olympic champion and world record holder to do so, will likely stand as one of the biggest upsets of these Games.