As Luke Cutts slumped flat out on the blue pole vault crash mat, few inside the Alexander Stadium would have believed he had secured an OIympic place just moments before.
The 28-year-old had failed a third attempt at clearing the 5.50metre height and stayed stationary for ten seconds.
But the pole vault being the pole vault, even the victors end in failure.
The Barnsley athlete had already seen off the best of British competition prior to attempting a new season’s best mark.
As he finally rose up from the comfort of the bed, the refreshment of a lifelong fulfilment sank in and the tag of British champion indoors and out put a gloss on a remarkable day of a hardened career.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Cutts. “Being crowned British champ again and getting my place in Rio, I’m absolutely over the moon.”
Cutts only required a top-two finish to secure his berth in Rio after achieving the 5.65m qualifying standard with a 5.70m clearance indoors earlier this year.
When London Olympian Steve Lewis dropped the bar at 5.40m, there was no doubting his spot on the plane.
That moment was a realisation that the battles of training demands, family life and finances had all been worthwhile. Cutts almost quit athletics three years ago but his decision to plug on part-time whilst working at a packaging company has paid off.
“This is what I have been training for over the last 16 years,” added Cutts. “Hopefully I can go out to Rio now and perform to my best.
“I will make the final, I am sure of that. I’ve got to take it round by round and get through the qualifying and see what I can do.”
Moments after Cutts received his gold medal, Middlesbrough long jumper Chris Tomlinson leaped off the board for a final time.
The former British record holder intends to step away after a 20-year involvement in athletics, which included a sixth place finish at London 2012 and a European Championships bronze in 2010.
In his final competition, Tomlinson could only manage a best of 7.43m, almost a metre down on his personal best set in 2011, and 24cm behind Sheffield winner Dan Gardiner.
“My career’s been amazing,” said Tomlinson. “But ultimately, the body isn’t going where it needs to be going. I’m not close to it, I’m a mile off it.
“All good things have to come to an end. It would appear that the writing’s on the wall that this is it. When you give it 100 per cent and rather than the tape measure getting pulled out to 8.10/8.20 it’s getting pulled 7.40, you think, ‘holy moly that’s bloody miles off’.”
Dozens of Olympic places were secured over two enticing days of competition but a flight to Rio remains in the balance for middle distance runner Charlene Thomas. The Wakefield athlete was overcome with emotion after finishing third in the 1,500m as she was pipped in the final strides for second place by Leeds Beckett University student Laura Weightman, who in turn booked her second Olympic adventure.
Thomas must now attempt to run a qualifying time of 4.07.00 in Barcelona on Thursday night to stake her claim to the selectors for the third discretionary spot at Rio or a spot at the European Championships in Amsterdam.
“If I start thinking about it, I start getting so emotional, that’s how much it means to me,” said Thomas, who is coached by husband Aaron.
“I’m 34 now. I have been to the world champs, Europeans but never an Olympic Games. It’s the one thing I want to tick off in my career.”
Fellow middle distance runner Lee Emanuel is also targeting European selection after his chances of reaching Rio were blown away in a scrappy 1,500m.
Rival Tom Lancashire fell in front of Emanuel inside the final 150m, and the 31-year-old did not have the speed in his legs to respond to the kick of younger duo Charlie Grice and Chris O’Hare.
However, the experienced Sheffield campaigner admitted he would have had to consider the bigger picture over flying to Rio with doubts over the Zika virus. “I have more important things going on in my life,” said the City of Sheffield runner.
“I don’t want to risk going to Rio, lots of bad things are happening out there. I got engaged last week. I wasn’t going to make a decision until qualification happened, but I would definitely have had to consider it.”
Saturday’s action was headlined by the fastest 100m ever raced on these shores as James Dasaolu (9.93s) led three Britons under the t10-second barrier. James Ellington (9.96s) gained the second automatic selection spot in the wind-assisted race while CJ Ujah (9.97s) must sweat on selection after finishing third.
City of York powerhouse Scott Lincoln (19.03m) was the only White Rose winner on day one as he won the shot put by more than a metre. Rio-bound race walker Tom Bosworth of Leeds produced a characteristically dominant performance to kick-start Sunday’s action which was brought to an end by a sterling Adam Gemili in the 200m.
Alexandra Bell (2.03.97) finished ahead of British stalwart Jenny Meadows to take fifth in the 800m, while fell running convert Emma Clayton (16:06.93) came ninth in the 5,000m ahead of Leeds clubmate Claire Duck (16.30.37). Wakefield’s Martyn Bernard was eighth in the high jump after three failures at 2.23m. Leeds sprinter Connor Wood ran 21.42sec in the 200m heat at his first national championships.