As brave selection decisions go, it pales by comparison with that taken by the GB athletics selectors in naming Edinburgh's Lynsey Sharp for the 800 metres yesterday. The reasons, however, are identical. It's in the interests of sending out the best team.
Four other athletes had run faster than the Edinburgh woman, who beat three of them in the trial 11 days ago, and all had achieved the A qualifying standard. Sharp had not. Although Jenny Meadows had not raced since last year because of Achilles tendon surgery, she was selectable because she ran the qualifying standard seven times last year and was World bronze medallist in 2009.
Selecting the Scot was an option that few, perhaps least of all Sharp, dared consider. The bravery of the selectors, who could easily have copped out, citing the criteria which would have sent three 800m women to the Games, was manifest in their refusal to take that option. They took the appropriate decision which sends the in-form athlete to the Games.
Former UK director of coaching, Scot Frank Dick, who had discussed the issues with me earlier, thought it unlikely that Charles Van Commenee (who now occupies the chair he once filled with distinction) would opt for Sharp, and applauded the decision – perhaps predictably given he coached Sharp's father, Cameron, to Commonwealth gold and European silver.
Van Commenee had promised to take hard decisions which he predicted would lead to tears. But few expected this. "There were tears," confessed Sharp last night. "I was so emotional."
Dutchman Van Commenee explained the thinking. "It was decided that most important is to have the right performance at the right time," he said. "Lots of people have the right performance at the wrong time. Lynsey Sharp has done very good business recently: performed at the trials [beating everybody]; did very well at the European Championships [winning silver], beating athletes who had run 1:57, 1:58, 1:59, and beating Jemma Simpson [who had the A standard] on both occasions.
"We decided Lynsey Sharp is the one with the best current form. Not one of these athletes actually took control of their own destiny. That's why it was very difficult. The athletes made it difficult by not doing what they're supposed to. Once the selection panel has to spend two hours on selection, that's already a bad sign. The panel is convinced that the athlete selected has the best chance of performing at the Games."
For Meadows, it was a bleak day, also learning that Evgeniya Zinurova, who beat her for European Indoor gold last year, is among three Russians to fail a drug test. Enough to keep her out of the Olympics, but it won't restore the medal Meadows deserved.
Despite her rant about appealing if omitted, Meadows was gracious yesterday, explaining that the scenario she had anticipated involved being left out at the expense of somebody else with the A standard. "The scenario they have gone for would mean deselecting an athlete, and I don't want to be the person to do that," she said. "Lynsey will be ecstatic at the moment, and so will her family, her coach, her support team and friends. I don't want to deprive a young athlete of that. I've been in the situation in the past where I've not been picked and I've been absolutely devastated. I don't think I've got the basis to do that."
However, we cannot let this Olympic selection pass without observing the reality of the Scottish perspective. Although the four named yesterday is average (25 in total over the six Olympic Games since 1992) the fact that they are all female is the nadir for the country's men – the worst in more than half a century. Indeed, at Melbourne in 1956, there was no Scot in the team at all.
The Scottish athletics presence peaked at 11 in 1972, following an outstanding Commonwealth Games two years earlier in Edinburgh. There were 10 in 1976, eight four years later, and six each in 1988 and '84. We have been in decline ever since.
Glasgow 2014 looms, and scottishathletics urgently needs to examine how they reverse this. Now that the dust of Olympic selection is settling, they might ask the UK governing body about the maverick exclusion of David Bishop and Chris O'Hare from the GB European team, when they had superior times to those who were preferred. But the response might be that which the likes of Meadows, Okoro, Jackson, and Simpson heard yesterday – about the interests of sending the best team.
Make no mistake, however, Sharp, currently 29th of those eligible to run in the Olympics, faces a baptism of fire in London. "I hope people still support me after the controversial selection," she said. With medals at European senior and under-23 level, plus Commonwealth Youth Games level, her championship credentials are in no doubt.