“GOLD, gold, gold!”
There is unlikely to be another more parochially enthusiastic outburst from a modern sports commentator than those three simple words shouted by the late Norman May at the Moscow Olympic Games in 1980.
May was calling the final of the 4x100m medley relay in which Neil Brooks, Peter Evans, Mark Kerry and Mark Tonelli won Australia's first of two gold medals in the pool.
Unfortunately, the same sentiments could not be directed toward one of the youngest members of the Australian team a short distance away in the main arena during the track and field events.
Although only 19 years old, 100 and 200 metre sprinter Debbie Wells, from the village of Emmaville (population 400), north-west of Glen Innes, was a veteran Olympian, having lined up as a 15-year-old at the previous Olympics in Montreal in 1976, where she ran in the 100m, 200m and relay but could not equal her national under-16 record times of 11.3s and 22.8s.
In Moscow her times were slower than those clocked in Montreal.
The Melbourne Age gave this account of Wells' Montreal events:
"Fifteen-year-old Debbie Wells twice came up against the Olympic champion yesterday.
"The first time was in the opening round in which she finished fourth to qualify behind [East German and later disgraced drug cheat] Renate Stecher.
"In the next round Mrs Stecher was right alongside her, so if it's experience she needs, Debbie is getting all she can handle.
"Actually, she is a very unlucky girl. With a little better start she would have been in the semi-final with Raelene Boyle.
"Debbie staggered out of the blocks and was last at 40 metres, but then gathered herself together and made a big bold move forward through the field and was just pipped on the line for fourth place by Russian Vera Anisimova.
"Debbie's time in the second race was 11.51s - a fraction slower than her first round time, but understandable considering the shocking start."
Wells, known Australia-wide as the Emmaville Express, also represented Australia in the 4x100m relay at the Los Angeles Games in 1984, making her one of only a handful of Australian track and field triple Olympians.
Despite her three Olympics, Wells, now head sports coach at Toowoomba Grammar School, never won an Olympic medal.
She is one of several New Englanders who have donned the green-and-gold Australian uniform on the Olympic stage.
The first was swimmer John Monckton, after whom the Armidale Aquatic Centre is named, who won silver in the 100m backstroke event at the Melbourne Games in 1956.
He became a dual Olympian when he contested the same event at the Rome Games in 1960, but failed to emulate his Melbourne victory when he finished seventh in the final.
However, Monckton did add gold to his medal collection, with wins in the 110 yards backstroke and 4x 110 yards medley relay, with Gary Chapman, John Devitt and Terry Gathercole, at the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales.
Monckton, now 74, was born in Armidale and trained at the local pool under the guidance of his father. His family lived in a house behind the pool.
Another of Armidale's favourite sons to gain Olympic selection was boxer Frank Roberts, Australia's first Indigenous Olympian.
The youngest member of the Australian boxing squad at 16, Roberts climbed into the ring in the welterweight division at the 1964 games in Tokyo, and although he gave a good account of himself, he failed to progress to the medal bouts.
Known as 'Honest Frank', the much-admired and respected Roberts continued his involvement in the sport in Armidale.
He gave boxing and fitness lessons to youths at the Police Boys' Club and the University of New England Sports Union until his death from a heart attack in February, 2011.
In an interview with The Armidale Express before the Beijing Games in 2008, Roberts described what it meant to be an Olympian.
"When an Aussie wins a medal, gold, silver or bronze, I get goose bumps. I'm so proud to be an Olympian, so proud to be an Aussie," he said.
The honour of winning the first gold medal by an Armidale athlete went to hockey player Kathleen Partridge, who achieved the ultimate prize as goalkeeper for the Australian women's team at the Seoul Olympics in 1988.
Partridge, after whom the playing fields behind the Armidale Ex-Services Club are named, is also a dual Olympian having been vice-captain of the women's hockey team at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.
However, the feats of Seoul were not repeated and the Australian women's team failed in the chase for a medal, finishing fifth behind gold medal winners Spain.
Partridge, who was educated at O'Connor Catholic College and now lives in Western Australia, is regarded as the doyen of Australian hockey goalkeeping coaches with several coaching manuals to her credit.
Partridge first gained national selection in 1985 and played at the 1986 World Cup in Amsterdam where she was named ‘keeper of the tournament’.
In 1988 she wrote her first book on the sport, titled The Rebound Revolution and a video under the same title was released in 1991.
Partridge finished her playing career after Barcelona and was the Hockeyroos goalkeeping coach from 1995 to 2000 during which time the team won numerous titles including Olympic Gold at Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000.
The big daddy of Olympic participants is Armidale cycling mechanic supremo Jock Bullen, who has tended the machines of the Australian track and/or road cycling teams at seven Olympic Games - Los Angeles (1984), Seoul (1988), Barcelona (1992), Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000), Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008). He declined the offer to make it number eight in London.
He is also a former national team manager and has travelled the world numerous times with teams competing at world championships and other major events.
His involvement with the national cycling team began in 1982 at the Brisbane Commonwealth Games.
In his long and illustrious behind-the-scenes career, Bullen has assisted and befriended the cream of Australia’s elite cyclists, including Kenrick Tucker, Gary Niewand, Michael Turtur, Stewart O'Grady, Bradley McGee, Shane Kelly, Kathy Watts, Anna Meares and Cadel Evans.
The Northern Tablelands can also claim two former and current Olympians in cyclist Cadel Evans and trap shooter Suzy Balogh.
Evans failed to win a medal at Beijing, but hopes to make amends in London. He won last year's Tour de France but was unable to retain his title this year.
Born in Katherine, Northern Territory, Evans claims Armidale as his home town where he was educated at Newling Public School.
London will be Evans' fourth Olympics. He started his career as a cross country mountain biker and competed in that category at his first Olympics in Atlanta where he finished ninth. In the same event in Sydney he finished sixth.
He switched to road racing and won tours of Austria in 2001 and 2004, Romani (2006) and the Commonwealth Games road race time trial in 2002.
He won the time trial selection event for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he lined up in the road race and individual time trial, finishing fifth and 16th respectively. He finished second overall in the 2007 and 2008 Tour de France.
He is a big chance for gold in the road race in London.
Suzy Balogh, although born in Queanbeyan, graduated from the University of New England with a Bachelor of Rural Science in 1996 and was a resident of Robb College for the previous three years.
She shot to prominence at the 2004 Games in Athens where she became the first Australian woman to win gold in shooting and the only Australian to win gold in shooting on debut.
Despite her success at Athens, Balogh failed to gain selection for Beijing, but came back with a vengeance to win a place on the team for London.
She also holds Commonwealth, World, Oceania, and national titles and in 2005 was awarded an OAM for her services to sport.