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4 December 2021 • Community

International hockey duo recall the joy of the Colgate Games

Blacks Sticks international Amy Robinson competes in the long jump at Colgate Games.

Ahead of the 2022 Colgate Games, we focus on a pair of Black Sticks women who share many happy memories competing at the annual kids athletics competition. Steve Landells chats to Amy Robinson and Steph Dickins to find out more.

Amy Robinson

New Zealand hockey international Amy Robinson looks back fondly on her many years competing at Colgate Games – describing the annual event as her “highlight of the summer.”

While the 78 times capped Black Sticks player and 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist has since forged an outstanding career in the 11-a-side team code, Amy was also an outstanding all-round track and field athlete.

Taking up athletics from the age of four, Tauranga-raised Amy boasts a strong pedigree winning national medals at U18, U20 and senior level in a range of events including the 100m, 200m, 400m, 100m hurdles 300m hurdles, 400m hurdles, long jump and heptathlon before later specialising in hockey.

Amy’s first taste of the Colgate Games at the age of eight when the 2005 North Island event was staged on Auckland’s North Shore.

Competing for Greerton Athletics Club she says: “At that time it was the biggest sporting competition I’d ever been to. It was always so much fun, competing with your friends and club-mates. Greerton had a strong programme, and we were always strong in the relays. I just remember every always really looking forward Colgates – it was the highlight of my summer.

“My mum would be club manager and my brother would get dragged along as well. If the event was staged south of Waikato/Bay of Plenty we’d always go away for a few days and make a holiday of it.”

A gifted athlete, Amy enjoyed a lot of success in a full range of events at Colgate Games. She harvested countless medals but while she fully embraced the competitive side of the iconic annual kids athletics competition, the Games were overwhelmingly a fun experience.

“I recall one year doing a practise start, tripping up causing the kids behind me to have a good laugh,” she recalls. “It was funny, I’d always have such a good time with my mates.

“There was always a cool team vibe,” she explains. “The day after competing the team would either swim in the pool and the river and we’d forget about athletics and just have fun with your friends.”

Yet despite the laughs and the many happy memories – Colgate Games also played a key role in aiding her future sporting success.

“It got me used to performing under pressure which certainly helped me later on the bigger stage,” she says. “They’d be a lot of people watching you at Colgates, it helped to have gone through such experiences at such a young age.”

This next edition of the the Colgate Games take places next month, so why would Amy encourage kids to participate in next month’s events?

“It is just such an awesome event, which gives you the chance to push yourself,” explains Amy. “I made so many friends from around the country that have become lifelong friends. For me, the whole Colgate Games experience was unforgettable.”

Steph Dickins

For Tokyo Olympic hockey international Stephanie Dickins the Colgate Games represented the perfect blend of fun and competitiveness.

Steph may today be better known today as a rock-solid and reliable New Zealand hockey defender but in her younger days she excelled in athletics, winning ten national age-group championship medals in 400m, 300m and 400m hurdles and heptathlon.

Raised on a sheep and beef farm 30 minutes outside of Feidling in the Manawatu, Steph discovered a talent for running at primary school. A regular winner of cross country and athletics days her athletics journey took a giant leap forward after winning the Year Nine race at the 2008 New Zealand Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships in New Plymouth. It was here her potential was identified by George McConachy – who became her coach – and she joined Palmerston North Athletic & Harriers.

Later settling as a 400m and 800m specialist her maiden Colgate Games experience came at the age of 13 in Whanganui. Despite feeling nervous, Steph impressed to win 800m gold and 400m silver medals and she recalls many happy memories of the event.

“Having grown up on a farm when I was used to running everywhere barefoot, Colgates was a new environment for me,” she says. “It was a bit overwhelming with all the officials and athletes – it was a big event. But despite that, I felt very looked after and safe and the meet was fun.”

The event also served another purpose for the naturally competitive Steph, who enjoyed pitting herself against New Zealand’s finest athletes in her age-group, and she returned 12 months later for the 2010 Colgate Games – staged in Auckland – full of enthusiasm and excitement.

By now much more firmly embedded into the sport and travelling north with a close group of training partners, Steph excelled at Mt Smart Stadium to win 400m gold, 800m silver and bronze medals in the 1500m and high jump.

The medal haul may have been impressive but her primary memories of Colgate Games were of also celebrating her birthday there.

“My birthday falls on January the 9th and one of my close friends was on the 10th – and our birthdays always seemed to clash with the event,” she explains. “I remember going out of dinner during the Games – it just made the event more fun.”

Steph, 26, believes winning medals at Colgate Games acted as a huge motivation for the next stage of her athletics development before later opting to specialise in hockey.

So how does she believe Colgate Games aided her future sporting career?

“It helped a lot,” she adds. “The Colgate Games is a fun environment, but it also gave me the chance to push myself and to see how far I could go. Athletics more generally taught me the fundamentals of running and the importance of following a training programme every day.

“I would definitely encourage others to give the Colgate Games a go, it is such a cool event. I loved the competitiveness and fun of hanging out with friends for a few days. It brought so many people together in such a cool environment.”

The entry deadline for the 2022 Colgate Games is at 11.59pm on Sunday 5 December. The 2022 North Island Colgate Games takes place at Newtown Park, Wellington from January 7-9 and the South Island Colgate Games is hosted at Surrey Park, Invercargill from January 14-16.