Almost as soon as the white smoke billowed out of UK Athletics’ headquarters in Perry Barr to signify the British selectors had picked their team for London 2012, that smoke metamorphosed into a mushroom cloud.
To say some of Charles van Commenee’s picks have been controversial is something of an understatement, but then the selection of former drugs cheats was always going to cause consternation in many quarters.
But in ignoring the claims of some outstanding candidates it could be argued UKA’s head coach has staked a considerable amount of credibility. Gambles are fine, as long as they pay off. More of those later.
What has puzzled some is the over-riding rationale. In certain events, like the women’s 800 metres, there has been a cut-throat ruthlessness.
In others, though, there have been choices that have bordered on the indulgent.
Does it make sense for Team GB to have three male discus throwers, whose chances of a medal are remote, and only one female 800m competitor and neither of the two who ran the qualifying time?
Indeed 400m runner Michael Bingham summed up what he sees as an amorphous criteria when in the aftermath of the squad announcement he Tweeted: “Trials should either be discretionary or cut throat stop skating lines.”
Van Commenee has a simple response to anyone who gripes when he points out anyone who wanted to be picked had ample opportunity to run the time, clear the height or throw or jump the distance.
Let’s face it, the qualifying standards have not been kept under lock and key in a Bank of England vault for the last seven years.
They are tough, especially in the men’s high jump where 2.31m is almost irrationally hard. But they have been achievable.
But every athlete will feel they are a special case, not least the 800m women who were overlooked in favour of the promising but raw Lynsey Sharp.
Van Commenee faced a stark choice between the pair of athletes who had run the A standard of 1:59.90, Marilyn Okoro and Emma Jackson, or the 21-year-old Sharp who had not.
UKA cited a rule which means athletes with B standards, in this instance 2:01.30, can only be picked if there are no A standard athletes also included.
Van Commenee clearly decided that Sharp’s composure in winning the Trials in Birmingham a couple of weeks ago and the storming silver medal she nicked at the European Championships in Helsinki, were worth more than any of Okoro or Jackson’s achievements.
That is to say nothing of the embattled Jenny Meadows, Britain’s most successful middle distance woman since Kelly Holmes, whose injuries have wrecked her chances of adding to her haul of international medals.
The decision was certainly bold and it places a huge amount of pressure on a youngster whose top class credentials are still developing.
It was certainly not to Okoro’s liking and soon afterwards she suggested she would quit the sport despite being the fastest Briton over two laps this year.
And another who missed out, Jemma Simpson who finished second at the trials and had one B standard, also vented her irritation on Twitter.
“Most countries would celebrate the fact that an event group is so strong. Not penalise the athletes by not selecting them.
“Tax payers have spent a lot of money on the home Olympics. Don’t they deserve to see full representation of GB athletes!?”
Van Commenee’s explanation will not have cut much ice. “We decided she was the one with best current form. It was difficult because not one of the athletes took control of their own destiny,” he said.
“The athletes made it difficult by not doing what they’re supposed to do. Once the selection panel has to spend two hours it’s already a bad sign.
The panel and I are convinced that the athlete selected is the one who has the best chance of performing well at the Games.”
Indeed the temptation would be to look at Lisa Dobriskey’s form in the 1500m where a serious illness has left her without either of the qualifying marks in 2012 but has not stopped her being named alongside Laura Weightman and Hannah England.
To be fair to Dobriskey she has a world class pedigree, but then so too does Meadows.
And the two-lap women are not the only ones to consider themselves hard done by Richard Kilty had to A standards in the 200m but van Commenee opted to call up only Trials winner James Ellington and second fastest Brit Christian Malcolm.
James Alaka, who is actually the quickest over a half-lap this season, bombed so badly at the Trials he has not made it.
Gareth Warburton also hit the A standard over 800m but will not be competing with Andrew Osagie and Michael Rimmer but Lee McConnell’s single 400m A standard, from last year, has taken her to London 2012.
All of which is to say nothing of the ideological issues associated with picking Dwain Chambers, who not only has not run the A or B standard this year, but who has served a two-year suspension for doping.