I can honestly say I’ve been to Hell and back covering athletes’ last-minute efforts to qualify for the Olympics.
In this case, the athlete in question was Britain’s Daley Thompson, whose achievement in becoming at one point the Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth decathlon champion, as well as holding the world record, was a fair argument for ownership of the title of greatest all-round athlete ever.
But in 1992 even the peerless Thompson, as ruthless with the media as he was with any of his human rivals, was a fading force. Having finished fourth at the 1988 Seoul Games, he wanted one last Olympic hurrah in Barcelona four years later.
Aged 33, and with a persistent hamstring injury, he was struggling to achieve the Olympic qualifying standard as the deadline loomed and decided to get away from it all to take part in a low-key decathlon in Trondheim.
He was out of luck in all respects as he was unable to complete all 10 disciplines in front of a crowd that, as my late lamented colleague Cliff Temple, then athletics correspondent for the Sunday Times, joyously noted, consisted of one man and his dog.
And by way of a bonus he was watched in his frustration by a small group of British press members who had heard of his plan and altered their itineraries to take in the impromptu event before moving on to cover the annual Bislett Games meeting in Oslo.
Our route to Trondheim took us through the little town of Hell. I think I bought a postcard there, but if I did I don’t know where the hell it is now.
Anyway. Thompson couldn’t make it, and about a week later he had one more even less productive final effort at Crystal Palace, where he had to accept that a fifth Olympics was a no-go. He retired soon afterwards.
Oh - and then there was Carl Thackery. Poor bloody Carl Thackery. Immensely talented; immensely unlucky.
In 1990 this Yorkshire athlete put himself out of the London Marathon while altitude training in Albuquerque by running into a cactus on a mountain trail.
The following year he won the British 10,000 metres trials in Cardiff ahead of the World Championships that were due to take place in Tokyo, but missed the qualifying standard of 28min 07sec because of high winds.
After suffering from and recovering from a hamstring injury, he had one final chance to get the mark at an obscure meeting in Stoke’s Northwood Stadium, where once again the elements defied him.
The first drops of rain fell from an apparently cloudless sky five minutes before the race was due to start. By the time the six runners had lined up, every other body present, save for the hunched and cagouled track officials, had retreated to the back of the stand, caught in shorts and shirts at the end of a long, sweltering afternoon.
For Thackery, it was raining slings and arrows. By the halfway point, with thunder rumbling overhead, he knew his task was hopeless.
"The thing is," Thackery mused afterwards, "I know that in two or three weeks I will be in shape to run under 28 minutes." He glanced up. "Just look at it now…"
The sky had emptied itself of rain and the sun was shining on the surrounding hills.
Watching athletes in this predicament is a particularly excruciating spectacle at this time of year.
For Sir Mo Farah, still in need of a qualifying time of 27:28 if he his to defend his Olympic 10,000m title in Tokyo, it will be all or nothing this Friday (June 25) - two days before the qualifying deadline.
Having missed the mark by 22 seconds at the recent European 10,000m Cup in Birmingham, the multiple world and Olympic champion, now 39, will have one final attempt in a trial race hastily set up by UK Athletics in Manchester.
South Africa’s 30-year-old double Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya is in a similar quandary having tried three times this year to get the women’s 5,000m qualifying mark of 15:10, her most recent effort coming on Saturday (June 19) when she finished more than 47 seconds adrift at a race in Regensburg, Germany.
For other would-be Olympians, however, the metaphorical sun has shone just at the right time, even when it looked like rain.
At the Rio 2016 Games, Simone Manuel became the first African-American swimmer to earn Olympic gold as she won the women’s 100m freestyle.
At the US Olympic trials that have just concluded in Omaha, Nebraska, Manuel failed even to reach the final of the event at which she had created Olympic history.
The day after her stunning result she said that she had had to take three weeks off during March and April after being diagnosed with "overtraining syndrome", and candidly discussed her recent struggles, during which she battled heart rate spikes, insomnia, depression, anxiety and fatigue.
The problems began for her in January as she felt the toll of the pandemic and toiling through an extra year of preparation for the delayed Tokyo Games.
Manuel added she also felt the weight of a year in which the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis sparked the biggest civil rights protests in the country since the 1960s.
"The last couple weeks and months have been hard," she said.
She had one final chance to put things right yesterday, on the final day of the trials, as she took part in the 50m freestyle.
And she won, finishing 0.01 ahead of the swimmer who had been victorious in the 100m freestyle, Abbey Weitzeil.
"More than anything, I’m relieved," Samuel said.
"Obviously, my goal was to make the Olympic team in the 100 and the 50, but to be back on the team and have another opportunity to swim for Team USA really is a blessing. I’m just happy.
"Today may have been the longest day of my life. That 50 may have been the longest 50 of my life…"