UK Athletics unveiled yesterday its updated list of competitors who will receive funding from the National Lottery, and in the wake of even tougher criteria imposed by UK Sport, the focus shone, inevitably, more on the cull than the cultivation.
Several established names saw their support brought to an end, perhaps for good. And there were, admitted UK Athletics performance director Neil Black, splashes of anger and agony to counter the joy and ecstasy when he personally broke much of the bad news over last weekend to those whose numbers did not come up.
It was farewell to Scottish pair Lee McConnell and Freya Ross, who missed most of this summer due to pregnancy and injury respectively. To the former triple jump world gold medallist Phillips Idowu, whose future remains uncertain, and to the current indoor champion in the event, Yamile Aldama. Add to the bonfire the likes of Andy Turner, Jenny Meadows and Lisa Dobriskey, - all world medallists of recent vintage - and it was understandable that Black confessed to the awkwardness of his role.
"Making good decisions isn't easy," he confirmed. "But we've got to look at the future and project forwards. We've got to look at the facts and figures. Look at how things have evolved. It's been tough."
In truth, the governing body was left with little room to manoeuvre. Prior to this year, lottery money had been pushed towards those deemed likely to reach the finals of major championships. Now, the mantra is medals and nothing but. The result is a core group of 22 athletes on the top level of the world-class performance programme, identified as contenders to end up on the podium at Rio 2016. Sixteen more, including the top-ranked Scottish pair Eilidh Child and Jamie Bowie, will receive a lower level of support via their places in the British 4x400m relay squads.
Six more Scots - Lynsey Sharp, Eilish McColgan, Laura Muir, Mark Dry, Allan Smith, and Chris O'Hare - were among the 44 named on the next tier, a group earmarked for success at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Money itself offers no guarantees. Forecasting the future, when injuries, form and motivation are unknown variables, left Black and his team with a gambler's choice.
"You look back at 2012 in London," he said. "You look at the passion and the commitment made. You learn from that. I looked at Moscow this year. I saw Christine [Ohuruogu] apply herself in a way that was incredible, in a way everybody was blown away by. You see Mo Farah come back time and time again. You see the hunger and the work that goes into it." Rising stars were assessed and analysed. "Then you come up with a group of people who you believe are the most likely to win and that's what we did."
Child, fifth in the individual 400m hurdles at August's world championships in Moscow and a European silver medallist on the flat in the spring, can be among the most aggrieved to have been excluded from an elite cluster that includes long jumper Chris Tomlinson, deemed expendable from the team which went to Russia.
Despite a heel injury that wrecked her 2013 campaign, Lynsey Sharp has been deemed to merely possess potential, barely a year after claiming the European 800m title. Black insists there is "absolutely no question" that the 23-year-old can deliver success but he believes she is a longer-term project. "Knowing that she has a plan to achieve it, and believing that will happen over a longer period and not necessarily by Rio 2016, is why we've positioned her where we did."
In addition, there are 25 Paralympic athletes on podium funding - including Libby Clegg and Stef Reid - Scotland's two medallists at London 2012, plus two on relay support, and 23 on podium potential, with Meggan Dawson-Farrell and Samantha Kinghorn among that latter group. Others, like marathon specialist Shelley Woods, have been cast out.
"We're not rewarding past successes," said UKA head coach Paula Dunn. "We know it's difficult after a Games but all the athletes were aware early what the criteria were to remain on funding."