LONDON -- Pole vault gold medalist Jenn Suhr wasn't quite sure she'd ever clear the looming bar that was her nemesis.

Elena Isinbaeva, after all, had owned the women's pole vault as if it were private property. The Russian won two Olympic gold medals, five world championship titles and is the outdoor world record-holder at 16 feet 7 inches.

Suhr, 30, was the silver medalist in Beijing four years ago. And truth be told, most figured the best she could do Monday was play the bridesmaid to Isinbaeva again.

But husband and coach Rick Suhr had a good feeling Monday.

"You're going to win this," he told the vaulter.

"He's never said that," Jenn Suhr said. "That's not something he says. It put that extra spunk that I can do this, someone else believes in me that much."

Suhr overcame struggles with Achilles problems, a quadriceps muscles issue and celiac disease to become the second American to win the event by clearing 15 feet 7 inches in cold and blustery conditions at Olympic Stadium.

"When you grow up in Buffalo, you learn to jump in everything," Rick Suhr said.

Isinbaeva, 30, won the bronze behind Cuba's Yarisley Silva, who also cleared 15-7 but had more misses.

"It is like a gold medal for me," said Isinbaeva, who suffered a hand injury last year. "I think this bronze tells me 'Elena, don't quit,' as I planned to quit after London."

Suhr and Isinbaeva had a one-sided rivalry with the Russian besting the New Yorker the first 14 times they met. But Suhr has won the past three encounters, none bigger than Monday's.

"To have someone so good in the field and to come out on top, it really is an honor," Suhr said. "The psychological barrier was within myself -- believing what I had to do in training. It's going to come together one day for me."

She also needed to get healthy. In a circumstance similar to Berkeley swimmer Dana Vollmer, Suhr started a gluten-free diet after suffering from cramping, dehydration and injury because of a stomach condition.

Vollmer credited the change of diet to helping her win three gold medals at the London Games. Rick Suhr said his wife's healthy condition was a huge factor in the pole vault victory.

That's why he predicted that she would do it before Suhr headed to the track Monday.

"I felt the momentum," Rick said. "I thought I was just tricking myself. She's finally healthy. For her to be healthy, I think she's the best jumper in the world."

The 6-foot Suhr was the best on a night that conditions made it difficult to clear the magical 16-foot barrier. But it was sufficient enough to join Stacy Dragila as the only Americans to win the Olympic pole vault competition.

Part of the success was strategic. Suhr passed on the first two heights before clearing 14-11 on her first try. By then the other medalists already had missed once. Suhr passed again at 15-3 and then cleared 15-5 as the challengers began to drop out.

Rick Suhr sat next to Isinbaeva's coach in what he described as a battle of wits.

"I knew what he was doing and he knew what I was doing," Rick said. "We both knew that it was between Issy and Jenn. But I got ahead of him and I stayed ahead of him."

He did it by having Suhr pass on those heights. But it remained nerve-wracking to the end. Suhr bowed out at 15-9 and then had to wait for Silva's final attempt that went nowhere.

"It was kind of like being on a boat," Rick Suhr said. "Whether we hit water or land, I just wanted off the boat."

The couple receives as much attention for their close relationship as Suhr's vaulting.

"He cares so much," she said. 'And he knows how much I want it. It's two people with that kind of passion and drive. We compete and we compete hard."

Rick Suhr describes his connection with Jenn as perhaps the most unique relationship between a coach and an athlete.

"It's good because together we gain momentum," he added. "I believe in Jenn completely and Jenn believes in me completely. I think after tonight, more people are going to believe in what we do."