For Colin Jackson, who regained the 110m hurdles title he won in 1993, the emotions were evoked by the memory of his young training partner and house-mate Ross Baillie, who died two months ago.
For Jonathan Edwards, who secured bronze rather than the gold he had hoped for in the triple jump, there were tears of frustration as he cried on the shoulder of his wife, Alison.
Even Dean Macey, the 21-year-old from Canvey Island who won a totally unexpected silver in the decathlon, found himself confronted by mixed emotions as he stood exhausted at the finish. "I didn't know whether to be sick, to cry or just pass out," he said.
It took almost a minute for Jackson to gain confirmation that his desperate lunge over the line had earned Britain their first global gold since Edwards's victory at the 1995 World Championships. When the replay on the big screen confirmed the result, the Welshman rose from his haunches to acclaim the victory - and his face crumpled with emotion.
"Ross came straight into my mind," said Jackson, who said earlier this week that he was selling his house because he could not stand the associations it now had for him following the 21-year-old hurdler's death through peanut allergy. "I would love him to have been here, because he would have been so excited. He was on a learning curve and he was on his way up. I feel there is always a bit of me missing now he is gone."
It has been a year of turbulent emotions for the Welshman, who has also seen his friend and former business partner Linford Christie facing a positive doping charge.
But his victory last night, in 13.04sec, ahead of Anier Garcia of Cuba (13.07) and Duane Ross of the United States (13.22), had national as well as personal significance following the recent spate of British doping cases.
"It was very important to get the gold to lift the spirits of British athletics," Jackson said. "There was a little bit of pressure on me from my training group because we've had a little bit of a nightmare time recently. I just tried to stay relaxed and calm. Even when I dipped I wasn't sure I'd got the gold."
Jackson had described this as his best chance to win the title since 1993 following the failures of his two big American rivals to reach the final. Mark Crear, fastest athlete this year with 12.98, was disqualified from his heat for two false starts, and the defending champion Allen Johnson, whom Jackson described as his "voodoo man", was forced to scratch from the semi-final because of a calf injury.
At 32, he now stands as the first male athlete to regain a world title over a six-year gap, and the only Briton to win two world golds. His career has revived steadily since his low points in 1995 and 1996, when he missed the championships amid an acrimonious dispute with the British federation, and then finished outside the medals at the 1996 Olympics, hampered by a knee injury.
A year later, however, he took an unexpected silver at the Athens World Championships, and after undergoing a knee operation added the European title last summer and, earlier this year, the world indoor title. Last night marked the full return of an athlete for whom an Olympic title is the only remaining ambition.
Edwards, who had promised the kind of leap he produced in 1995 to set what stands as the world record of 18.29m, was bitterly disappointed at failing to do better than 17.48, which only earned him third place behind Germany's Charles-Michael Friedek, who won with 17.59, and silver medallist Rostislav Dimitrov, who recorded 17.49.
"It was just a disaster," said Edwards, who struggled once again to contain his emotions as he stood on the rostrum. "I don't know what went wrong. I could never have visualised not winning." Having jumped 17.48 with his second attempt, he seemed well placed to advance to regions only he out of the whole field was capable. His face on the run-up betrayed the seriousness of his intent, but his technique kept fouling up.
The nature of these championships changed dramatically at 7.40pm as Marion Jones, who had arrived here seeking four gold medals, clutched the base of her back on the left side with what was later diagnosed as a muscle spasm and collapsed to the track in agony 50 metres from the line in her 200m semi-final.
The athlete they call Superwoman appeared to have run full speed into a slab of kryptonite.
Jones's ambitions of winning the 100m, 200m, long jump and one of the relays here - as a prelude to her greater goal of five golds at the Sydney Olympics - got off to a predictable start when she won the short sprint in a championship record of 10.70. But, after having to settle for bronze in the long jump, she complained of fatigue as she made her way through the 200m rounds.
The question now is whether she can recover in time to run at the Brussels Golden League on Friday week, where she must win to keep in with a chance of sharing a $1m dollar jackpot.
Macey's spirited silver;
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