Jenn Suhr of the United States claimed Olympic gold on Monday in a subdued pole vault final where defending champion Yelena Isinbaeva had to settle for bronze.
Suhr, the Beijing silver medalist behind Isinbaeva, jumped 4.75 meters for gold, the most modest mark for gold since Sydney 2000.
Yarisley Silva of Cuba vaulted a national record of 4.75 on her second attempt for a surprise silver.
"It's really breathtaking," said Suhr. "It's something that's so emotional I can't even describe it."
"The atmosphere is electric because they bring you alive. When I warmed up I felt a little dead, but I fed off them."
Isinbaeva had an unconvincing start, failing at 4.55, before passing that height to clear 4.65 with ease. The 30-year-old vaulter then went over 4.70 before missing 4.75 twice.
The Athens and Beijing champion and 28-time world record setter opted to attempt 4.80, but fell short.
Isinbaeva was content, though.
"I am really happy. It is like a gold medal for me. It has been a lot of things in the past which have been disappointing for three years," she said.
"I think this bronze tells me 'Elena, don't quit,' as I planned to quit after London."
Isinbaeva was looking to become the first woman to win a track and field gold in an individual event three times straight.
The 2013 world championships may persuade her to stave off retirement, being on home soil in Moscow.
"I'd like some rest but for now I don't know anything. I am just glad the Olympics are finished as it was so stressful."
Athens bronze medalist Anna Rogowska was an early casualty, missing all three attempts at 4.45 despite a season's best of 4.70.
World champion Fabiana Murer crashed out in qualifying.