This summer has been absolutely fantastic, for me and for Swedish agility in general. I can’t stop thinking about how this spring started – with Lilli’s bad injury that lasted for several weeks, how worried I was and with thoughts about that she would never be totally ok again… Now when I look back at these last months I can almost not believe that all success we’ve had is for real!
I came back from the Agility World Championship in Luxembourg with so many great moments to remember and as I’m writing this I’m heading for my and Lilli’s American tour 2014, with a big smile on my face! Sweden, in all categories, was performing better than ever, and so we did in EO and the Nordic championship. Big congrats to all Swedish medalists!
It has been such a fantastic summer in Sweden and besides work, the dogs and me have enjoyed swimming in lakes, picking mushrooms, taking long walks and I have also spent some time with family and friends. But the latest time before AWC I was really busy to get everything done for my trip to North America. There are so many things to prepare when you should be away for a longer time so at one point I thought I wouldn’t get ready, but finally (a few hours after I first planned to leave from home) I did and I started my trip south.
Most of the people from the Swedish team were driving together AWC in minibuses and it was a good and fun trip down south. We had a stop in Germany and we arrived in Lux on Wednesday. On Thursday morning we had our training and it felt good, I had bee so much looking forward to run with Lilli in the AWC and then we were suddenly there! I enjoyed the training and I was so excited for the coming runs!
I have an old friend from school, Kiddi, which now lives in Luxembourg with her husband and two kids. We decided we had to meet of course and we realized she was working about two minutes from the AWC arena and their house was just 10 minutes drive away! They came twice to watch the agility and then they picked Lilli and me up to spend some nice hours together at their home. It was so fun to see them and it really gave me lots of good energy!
Well, let’s go back to the opening ceremony. It ended with a live performance from the guy who is singing “Living for agility” and that was perfect start. It’s always so nice to meet all people from around the world and it feels like everyone belongs to one big happy family ;).
The first run for large was already Thursday night. We had some hours after the opening ceremony and then it was time to get ready and concentrate! We hava a really nice team, with good dogs and a relaxed team spirit. The course was not really my type of course, it was ok but not super exciting. There were not many handling options or places were you could choose different ways for the dog. Then one combination (180 degrees and a wrap) was presented twice and for me it was kind of boring already the first time. Ok, I might sound a bit negative now, but for me fun courses are really important. I don’t like when I have to be passive and wait for the dog to turn because I have nowhere to run or I don’t need to run. Anyway, we got the course and it was just to accept it and enjoy :).
Sweden had start number 16 and Lilli was the last dog in the team. My brilliant teammates all made clean runs and then it were just for Lilli and me to try to make the time better.
The start was, in my opinion, the most exciting part of the course and there were several ways to solve it. I had many ideas and I kind of liked them all. Each of them had their advantages and small weaknesses but I thought all of them would work fine. I finally choose to serp 1-3 because I love serps and it means I can run. In a serp I have less to take care about and I put more responsibility to the dog in some way. That is actually great because I trust Lilli more than my self… 😉 The next place where you could make a choice was #11 and again I choose a serp and then a BX to the tunnel. And finally, after the broad jump I decided to stay on the take off side of the broad jump and make a BX between 18-19. Also here all my options that I have from the beginning felt good and I just had to make a decision. The run went well and we got the 3rd best time and of course I was really pleased with that! But the best of all, our Swedish team went in to the lead and in the end we won a gold medal in jumping! First time ever for a Swedish team to win a separate class at AWC and we were so excited and happy!
On Friday it was time for agility class and the team final. I liked that course much better. There were lots of different options of handling and in one sequence (9-11) you could choose several ways for the dog. I love to plan, I love to run and I love to watch situations like that. It’s both inspiring and thrilling. I also liked the situation after the dog walk. Even though I have RC and it was a sharp turn back to the tunnel it was a lot of speed in it, and I could choose to push Lilli with her turning command and keep running.
It was thrilling to be the lead and to get out as the last team but in this run we all got five stupid faults, unfortunately. Sometimes you have luck in agility and sometimes not. That’s how it is in our sport. I knew the teams in the top were clear and when I ran we had already at least 10 faults, so to be honest I didn’t concentrate 100%, but I had fun and our team did anyway good runs, besides the small mistakes. And it was just to take the hat off for France who made four brilliant clean runs and won the gold medal!
I had an early start Saturday morning for the individual jumping. It was an ok course but not super fun. The start would have been much more fun if it was more equal to turn the dog right or left at #3. Now it felt like turning left was much better because it was shorter and the line to the tunnel got better. So almost all people choose that way.
We had start number 22 and off we went. Luckily I didn’t get over time before I started… My team leader told me I had less than one second left of that 15 seconds limit! I was pretty pleased with my run overall, except for two places. From tunnel #4 to the weaves Lilli got a banana line and I hate banana lines! I know how much time they cost. I change my plan there and I had obviously not walked that option enough because I didn’t plan where to be after the tunnel. Now I ended up ON Lilli’s line so she had to run around me. Stupid. The second place were I was on the wrong place was after the tyre. I turned the wrong way after tunnel #15 so I didn’t get enough ahead to push her on a good line 16-17. The last place was in the end, between 19-20 when I should make a FX. I had planned to stay in the line of #19 but suddenly I was at least two meters further ahead so I pulled Lilli off the line and had to push her back to #20. That situation was really annoying and I could have saved a bit of time there!
I watched the rest of the class and I saw several good dogs with great runs and I thought many off them would get better time than me but Lilli ended up on 11th place in jumping and I was surprised over the good time she got, even with my stupid mistakes! Of course I would prefer to end up first and to be in the lead for the final, but our position was good and I was extremely excited for Sundays run and I hoped for a fun and challenging course with lots of choices!
Individual Agility – final
Finally it was Sunday and time for the individual finals! Large was the last class and it felt like the longest waiting ever…! At last we got our course maps and I was curious to see how the situation look like after DW. I knew that I had a much better chance to catch up with the teams before me if it was kind of straight after. With Lilli’s RC I know I can win some time :). Well, it was a challenge with a backside jump after the DW and it was straight! I walked the course and there were lots of handling options as well as different ways for the dog. I made my decisions in discussion with Nettan and my team leaders Eva and Jonas and everything felt really good, I was relaxed and excited in the same way. It was a course where I could run full speed the whole way and that’s something I really appreciate!
After the course walk I waited and waited and waited. I was thinking about the course and the handling, I would guess about 10 000 times. And it felt like the final at EO. Nothing could go wrong; if it did it would just be bad luck and that’s nothing I can do anything about.
And finally it was our turn. I had to remember the 15 seconds rule, enter the course and prepare my self a bit earlier this time. Not to risk getting over time before the start. So I did and we were both eager to run. I think I took one step and then I didn’t have any more patience to wait so I released Lilli and off we went. The start felt great, she came pretty tight and nice out from the tunnel, I send her to the weaves and she attacked them with full speed. I ran to the next obstacle and I called her even while she was still weaving to prepare her for a turn out from the weaves. She turned good around the last pole and then she suddenly slipped and fell totally on her side! “Damn it!” I had time to think; ”now we must run faster!” She did a good wrap over #6, and then I send her around the next jump with her verbal backside command and a turning cue, so I could continue to the A-frame, stay ahead, keep her on my right and push her to #9. As I told you before, I prefer less changes :). She got a good line to #10 and a nice wrap. I did a Ketchker at #11 to get a straight line to the broad jump. Then I ran like hell and made a BX between 14-15 and a warp and Ketchker at #15. I send her to the tunnel from my left side and as soon as I had given her the verbal command I started to run! I knew she wouldn’t hear my verbal backside command after the DW so I just had to be close to #18 before Lilli came down the DW to push her around, and I was! Then I had to stop my self, turn around in a Ketchker and continue to run pass her on the seesaw to push around #20. The audience was at that point cheering so much and when I said my release command on the seesaw she couldn’t hear me. I had to say it another two times and I also started to wave my hands to get her off! It’s good that she’s obedient, but in this case she was maybe a bit too obedient… 😉 Well, we did the last wrap around #20 and then we raced in to the end! When we passed the final jump and realized we had made a clean run I was so happy!! This little silly dog and I had made it, we gave absolutely everything we had we went into the lead! We ran out and I waited outside with Lilli while the last ones ran. And then Nettan and Zeljko came and told me we won the agility run and got a total silver medal after Lisa and Hoss, who for the fourth time achieved the gold medal, fantastic! I don’t know what I was most happy with, our gold medal in the agility run, despite Lilli’s slipping and the too good stop at the teeter totter, or the overall silver. Or maybe it was the combination of both!
Then it was time to run a lap of honour and this time Jonas, my team leader who holds the big Swedish flag could keep up with me better than at EO, at least on the inner curve ;). Then one of my most dedicated students, Monika Rylska from Poland entered the course and told me she got a 3rd place in the agility run with her young Chica! Wow, that made me of course even happier and I was so proud of my sweet student and her great dog! What an amazing final of AWC 2014!
To summarize – Some thoughts about AWC 2014
Why on earth do we still have the table in agility??!! We are not even allowed to use the table in trials in Sweden anymore and God bless the people who decided that. It’s a boring obstacle that is impossible to use in a fair way and that takes too much time in a class. Even with an electronic table it’s not possible to give all competitors the same chance. At least three times the table failed and people needed to make a re-run. That’s three times too much. Many people also thought the judging of the table were quite doubtful in many cases when it came to refusals. I hope the FCI delegates are wise enough to take the table away from all the future championships. Why to suddenly stop for five seconds in a sport where we all the time are trying to run as fast as possible??
I didn’t see it my self, but I heard people also complaining about the judging on the up contacts. I just say like I did about the table: Why on earth do we still have the upcontacts in agility??!! I don’t care so much for my self, becuase Lilli has only missed one up-contact in her life and none of my dogs have ever had problems with that. But it just makes our sport so unfair for large breeds, with long strides, that already have to fight against all border collies. If there was a voting for this, I would put my vote for taking those old fashion up-contacts and tables away. And I know there will be people who will come with arguments like ”If we are going to take those things away, we will probably keep taking things away and soon we don’t have anything left, where would it end?!” And I just say: Nop, tables and up-contacts just make our sport a little bit more unfair. All other things are fair enough for both handlers, dogs and judges. That is my opinion.
Cheering is great – and sometimes not
In the team agility run it was the first time I discovered that cheering from a big audience has both its positive and negative sides. I love when people are screaming and cheering, and I LOVE our loud, faithful Swedish supporters, but at the same time I realized that it’s hard for the dog to hear your verbal commands when it’s so noisy… Lilli usually turns very tight after the DW when I use her verbal turning commands and this time I think she first didn’t hear me, and she got a bit bigger turn than she use to.
In the final run I realized already during the course walk that it would probably be so loud when she was running on the DW that I couldn’t trust my verbal commands, as I have to handle her with if I’m behind. So, I had to plan something that made ahead of her; send her as independent to the tunnel as possible and RUN!! In this case I could solve it without my verbals, I got ahead of her so I could push around the jump. But if the situation before the DW would had been different, so I didn’t have a chance to be ahead, I would had been in trouble if she couldn’t hear my commands.
Well, I don’t know. There is probably no solution of this, I don’t want people to stop cheering. It was just the first time I actually realized that my verbal commands I training will not always hep me… 😉
This years AWC was overall a great event in my opinion! It was such a friendly, positive and nice atmosphere, well organized, good flooring and equipment, all teams got rooms, nice area outside for the dogs to warm up and a really nice arena. All helpers and and organizers should have BIG, BIG credits and THANKS for everything!