Whitlock made up for the disappointment of missing out on the podium in the team event earlier this week by claiming individual bronze in the demanding six-part event on Thursday night.
The Hemel Hempstead 23-year-old only finished behind his role model Kohei Uchimura of Japan, rated among the greatest gymnasts of all time, and Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev.
“My coach and I have been working so hard over the past four years,” said Whitlock, who won bronze in the pommel horse and team events at the London 2012 Games.
“I wanted to prove myself as an all-rounder and I’ve done that. I feel I’ve completed that target now.
“Kohei [Uchimura] has been my idol for a long time so I’m very proud for him and Oleg [Verniaiev], I’ve been competing with him for years. He’s been producing huge scores in the last few years and I’m very honoured to come third to those two.
“I never knew where I was placing at all. I didn’t know any of the scores of any of the other gymnasts at any point. It wasn’t until the end when I was first up so I could then watch everyone, and it was really tough.”
Whitlock’s historic success completed a glorious fifth day for Great Britain, following golds for divers Jack Laugher and Chris Mears and canoeist Joe Clarke and bronze medals for cyclist Chris Froome, judoka Sally Conway and shooter Steven Scott.
Further glory could await in the floor and pommel horse, which take place on Sunday and the latter of which will pit him against Team GB poster boy Louis Smith, who was narrowly edged into silver at London 2012.