Coming into the 2012 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon, we already knew the cruel calculus at play
Three athletes make the Olympic team in each event. Everyone else takes a lifetime of preparation and physical sacrifice back home with them.
A look now at a few big names that drew the short end at this year's pre-Olympic bonanza.
Injury casts its cruel spell on some unfortunate clump of athletes at every Olympic Trials, and in 2012 the most prominent among them was Walter Dix.
The double bronze medalist from Beijing pulled up with a hamstring issue in his 100-meter semifinal, limped through the final in last place and was subsequently unable to compete in the 200-meter dash.
Dix can still entertain hopes of making a relay team, but even that distinction wouldn't behoove a man of his talents.
Though you may yet catch David Oliver shilling Coke on your televeision set, you won't find the charismatic hurdler in London.
The defending bronze medalist at 110 meters finished fifth in the event final at Trials, more than a tenth of a second off the pace needed to secure an Olympic bid.
The result was commensurate with Oliver's times so far this season, but well out of proportion with the starring role advertisers and media had in mind for him.
Observers kept waiting for Jeremy Wariner's big-meet bonafides to kick in.
Surely the former Olympic champion and defending silver medalist at 400 meters had another gear lying in wait.
Turns out he didn't.
Wariner never made a full recovery from injury and, after eking through the first two rounds, finished a lackluster sixth in the event final.
He could still be tabbed to run the 4x400 men's relay, but a selection seems unlikely given his recent form.
Legend or not, Bryan Clay had himself one heck of a bad day in the men's decathlon.
In qualifying position after Day 1, the two-time medalist and defending Olympic champion crashed through the 110-meter hurdles (earning a disqualification) and followed that up with three consecutive fouls in discus.
The combination torpedoed his chances of an Olympic repeat and left him in tears alongside a fence at Hayward Field.
Since Team USA only has two decathletes with the London "A" standard needed to compete at the Summer Games, Clay could qualify for the third spot at a separate international meet.
But USA Track and Field discourages post-Trials qualification, and Clay has stated that he won't make a last-ditch London attempt.
Unlike the other men on this list, Jesse Williams did qualify for the London Olympics.
But man oh man was it ugly.
Fighting through bad weather and poor form, the defending world high jump champion finished fourth in his event final at U.S. Trials.
Saving grace came by way of the London "A" standard, which third place finisher Nick Ross just so happened to fall short of.
Williams won't be so lucky come August. The Olympic Games are a one standard affair, and to get gold he'll need a far better effort.