Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms summed up the mix of sheer disbelief and tearful disappointment when they admitted their defeat in the Yonex All England Open Championships was more painful than missing out on Olympic gold.
The English pair seemed poised to become the first for 25 years to defend their crown when they had five match points in their mixed doubles final in Birmingham.
But their Chinese opponents Zhang Jun and Gao Ling conjured a remarkable comeback to take the title 12-15, 17-14, 15-1 in a 99 minute journey of Everest highs and deep sea lows.
Zhang and Gao had shattered the home pair's dreams in the Olympic Games final in Athens 18 months ago but the manner of this defeat at the National Indoor Arena left Emms in tears and Robertson shell-shocked.
"This was different to Athens because we had match points in this match. In any match, when you get to match point and you don't win it hits you in the stomach," said Emms.
Robertson added: "We did everything right in this tournament apart from taking our chances in the second set. We played an almost perfect tournament apart from five points.
"We got to 14-13 ahead in the second set and we had five match points but we didn't take them. You've got to give the Chinese pair credit for sticking in there and not giving us the game. But at the end of the day we feel we have thrown it away."
Robertson and Emms, the third seeds, had won the previous three meetings between the pairs and their efforts this week, including a win over the world champions, will lift them to No 2 in the world.
But their Chinese rivals, the fourth seeds, had disposed of the world's top pair in the semi-finals.
The Chinese pair, the 2003 All England champions, had held the advantage throughout the first game, having opened an immediate 3-0 lead and extended the gap to 11-6.
But then Zhang and Gao could garner only one more point from the next ten as the English pair took the game in 27 minutes.
The second game was more of a roller-coaster. With a sell-out 5,000 crowd yelling their encouragement, they eased ahead 3-0, and then 8-6 but the Chinese recovered to lead 13-10 before the home favourites set up five different chances at 14-13 for championship point.
But each time it was an opportunity squandered and Gao's serve set up the chance to level the match.
The Chinese duo never looked back. They soon led 4-0 and, with Robertson's and Emms' energy draining away like water down the plughole, they were 14-0 in front before the home pair managed a point. It only delayed the inevitable.
Robertson said: "It was physically hard but it was more a case of being tired mentally. If you feel tired in your mind, you feel tired in your body. I felt we threw the game away in the second and then it was very difficult to come back in the third set."
Gao Ling took her second title when she teamed up with Huang Sui in the women's doubles final to defeat Yang Wei and Zhang Jiewen 6-15, 15-11, 15-2 in allChinese contest.
Danish pair Jens Eriksen and Martin Lundgaard Hansen regained the men's doubles they had won two years ago with another three-sets win over Choong Tan Fook and Lee Wan Wah.
The Malaysians had been the victims when Eriksen and Lundgaard Hansen won in 2004 and the Danes' strength and consistency again proved decisive as they won 15-6, 14-17, 15-2 in 71 minutes.
China celebrated a double success in both singles events.
Xie Xingfang upset the rankings by defeating compatriot Zhang Ning, the top seed, to defend her women's singles title 11-6, 4-11, 11-2, while world No 1 Lin Dan, the 2004 champion, regained his men's title after sweeping aside South Korean fifth seed Lee Hyun-il 15-7, 15-7.
The result meant China equalled their feat of last year when they won four of the five titles on offer at the NIA.