There was one particular moment two years ago that summed up how dry the well had become — both in terms of British athletic talent and excuses for when their performances were short of expectations.
The British team had just pulled off something of an escape in the funding sense, having snatched four relay medals in the final weekend of a home World Championships to reach a tally of six and limp to the lower end of their UK Sport target of six to eight.
Important business, those targets. For a body that has received £27 million in funding for this Olympic cycle, a shortfall of medals in London, of all places, would have had ramifications.
Dina Asher-Smith is eager to impress for Great Britain at the World Athletics Championships
But that was academic after the men’s and women’s 4x100m and 4x400m teams got their podium finishes. Or academic in the strictest sense, anyway, and so it teed up a concourse conversation with the performance director, Neil Black, that in turn was occasionally funny and occasionally desperate.
He said he was fine with critics ‘chatting s***’ about a 78-athlete team that yielded only one individual medallist — Mo Farah took gold in the 10,000m and silver in the 5,000m — and that relay medals ‘are certainly not cheap medals’.
Performance director Neil Black stressed that relay medals 'are certainly not cheap medals'
In the metrics of funding, he was right. But in any other environment, it was an argument that could be ripped apart.
For all the money Britain put into the passages of batons — and they are now good at it — relay medals are not the same and never will be.
The relief for Black therefore is that he most likely will not have to rely on such arguments at the upcoming worlds in Doha.
To give him his due, as a man with no shortage of detractors in British athletics circles, he did point strenuously in London to the future contenders coming through.
Ahead of the start of competition on Friday, it would be overstating things to talk of a surge of would-be medallists but Black does have the comfort of having Dina Asher-Smith, Laura Muir and Katarina Johnson-Thompson in his 72-strong squad. That trio are the best hopes for putting a dent in the UK Sport target of seven to nine medals.
On Asher-Smith’s shoulders sit the greatest expectations. There is also a feeling that she is best placed to absorb them given she has proven herself to have an exceptional ability to handle