LONDON 2012: Sequins and smiles replaced by devastated tears for British gymnasts
THEY won't be the first tears shed in Olympic year but that didn't make it any less heartbreaking to watch.
DISAPPOINTED: Great Britain's self-funded rhythmic gymnatics team will not compete at the London 2012 Olympics after missing the qualifying standard (gbrhythmicgroup.co.uk)
Six girls, all in their teens, saw their hopes of representing Great Britain at London 2012 evaporate at the 02 Arena, relegating them from aspiring Olympians to mere spectators this summer in a quick and ruthless swipe.
Team GB officials - determined to only award prized host nation places to athletes capable of credible performances - had set a stiff but achievable target for Great Britain's rhythmic gymnastics team.
But they fell just 0.273 short of their 45.233 target score, a rather specific 82 percent of the Italian team's winning mark at last year's World Championships, at the gymnastics test event.
Sequins and smiles are prerequites for performance in a sporting discipline that combines athleticism with artistry but the tears that flowed after it was realised their score was not enough cannot be compared to a former Emmerdale actress talking about 'her journey' after being dumped off Strictly.
This was pure emotion and crushing disappointment stripped bare for all to see, the sense of loss bordered almost on grief.
In the stands their helpless parents, who have raised thousands to aid the self-funded team with their Olympic ambitions, were equally distraught.
Even Tim Jones, British Gymnastics performance director, struggled to maintain a stiff upper lip and dabbed a moist eye.
They say it's worse to lose in the semis than the Cup Final, being so close to a once-in-a-lifetime home Olympics is much more devastating and this story will only be repeated in many trial events being staged in the months ahead.
To their credit, crushed team members - including impressive captain Rachel Smith, just 18, didn't hide but faced up to their disappointment - an example a few Premier League managers could do with following.
But they begged and implored the BOA to think again, to consider the huge improvements they have made and the marginal manner of their qualifying standard near miss.
It will be interesting to see how Team GB react but they will rightly make no excuses for demanding high standards.
Too often in the past host national Olympic committees have abused automatic qualification privileges to field teams or athletes who deny others, much more accomplished, their rightful place at the Games.
There is a fine line between using the Olympics to build up a sport's profile and setting it back because the performances are not up to the standard the big stage deserves.
Britain's rhythmic gymnastics team, who train under coach Sarah Binding at the University of Bath, will claim there are other upcoming competitions where they could still achieve the target they were set.
But the indications are that Team GB officials will be ruthless, fearful of the precedent it will set, having agreed strict and binding selection criteria in advance with a host of sports and athletes.
The sad fact is for all in the team their Olympic dream is now over - not just for London but probably for life.
Great Britain are currently some way short of the standard needed to qualify without relying on a hosts' invite and without funding from UK Sport, the road to Rio does not appearing easy travelling.
© Sportsbeat 2011
MORE COLUMNS BY SPORTSBEAT'S JAMES TONEY