Ask members of the Alexandra Athletics Club what they most look forward to when they attend the Colgate Games in January, and the first answer may surprise.

It’s not the trip to Invercargill, or competing with other athletes from across the South Island, but the fact that they get free toothbrush and toothpaste sets from the event’s sponsors.

Ten young athletes, aged from 7-14, will take part in the games from January 14 through 16, in what will be the first major competition for many.

Practice makes perfect . . . Eddie Weir works on his long jump technique during practice last week as Charlie Groundwater watches. PHOTO: TRACIE BARRETT

Team manager Tina Lake said the competition was as yet unimaginable to most of the young athletes, who have never competed seriously.

“A lot of the young ones haven’t even been on a rubber track or heard a starter’s gun, so it’s going to be a huge learning experience for them,” she said.

That experience, and the weekend away as a team was more important than any wins the team might have.

“It’s not about the medals,” Mrs Lake said.

“We chase personal bests.”

Down but not out . . . Oiva Kiuru is unable to compete in discus after surgery on a finger but will take part in the long jump at the Colgate Games. PHOTO: TRACIE BARRETT

Oiva Kiuru was disappointed he would not be able to take part in the discus event, having had surgery on his throwing hand after closing it in a door, but he spent practice last week working on his long jump technique.

He will have a good role model on the trip to demonstrate the often difficult task of letting injuries fully heal as senior club athlete Jessica Lake (16) will accompany the competition squad as a support member and volunteer.

Zealand rankings in both javelin and hammer throw but is herself having to stay off the athletics field after surgery for tears to her anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus.