The 38th annual Colgate Games for children aged 7 to 14 will involve 2000 athletes from more than 100 athletics clubs across New Zealand at two major events in January.
The North Island Colgate Games will take place at Manawatu Community Athletics Track, Palmerston North on January 8-10 with the South Island Games to be held at Saxton Oval, Nelson on January 15-17. Bay of Plenty clubs will send 50 athletes to Palmerston North with six others competing in Nelson. Rotorua's Lake City Athletic Club is among the Bay clubs sending a team to the Games. Greerton Athletics Club had the largest representation with 16 and club president for the past five years, Bruce Habgood, said the games were a very good test for the athletes to compare their abilities at a national level.
"It is quite a massive event and the kids get a real buzz out of it because there are medals up for grabs. It is seen as quite a prestigious event because you have teams from Australia coming over to compete in preparation for their own national championships. Because they are up against the best in the country those sort of performances do tend to come through," Habgood said.
"So to win a medal you know you have done well. Most of the kids are rapt if they can set personal bests and that is the one thing we have always stressed with the kids who go there is, win or lose, if you are setting personal bests in whatever you are doing then you can walk away very happily.
"It is also a lot of fun. There is a great atmosphere there. It is almost like a mini Commonwealth Games for children and among the competitors it has a very good feel about it too, so kids come away from it with a real neat experience."
The 2016 Colgate Games ambassador is New Zealand champion 1500m runner Julian Matthews.
"I remember when I competed at the Colgate Games, it was the most nervous I had ever been, but having the opportunity to compete against a great calibre of athletes, really prepared me for my professional sporting career today."
Matthews, who is aiming for the Olympics in 2016 after competing in the 2015 IAAF World Championships and the 2014 Commonwealth Games, said the games provide great competition and it's vital for young athletes to experience the competitive atmosphere.
"It's also important to realise that it's not always about winning," he said.
As well as medal glory, Nick Willis Scholarships are on offer to athletes who have outstanding performances throughout the Colgate Games. The scholarship gives recipients funds to put towards sports gear, coaching, travel and other resources to help them achieve their athletics goals.