The Team Manager's Report
Early Wednesday morning - about 8am - on 7 May, the British UKA Team left Evesham, bound for Belgium and the 2008 IFCS World Championships. The convoy was five vehicles strong, consisting of four vans with a cage for each dog and a mini bus with team members and grooms. Spirits were high but what would happen when they went up against the rest of the world? Team Manager Greg Derrett reports...
We headed towards London, went around the M25 and then down to Dover, arriving at the ferry around lunch time. Several of us had been on previous ventures and we felt this was by far the best way to travel, especially taking into consideration the distance to Belgium.
The team, representing all four sizes, included the following handlers and dogs.
After leaving Calais and a leisurely two hour drive, we arrived at the town of Kortrijk in Belgium. You're always slightly apprehensive when booking a hotel via the Internet. Clever photography can be deceiving but we were all smiling as we checked in. The hotel had lovely big rooms and excellent facilities including a pool, sauna and sun beds - all of which were to be well used during the small amount of down time we had.
A two minute walk into the town centre and there was a great choice of cafes and restaurants. The food was good but the beer was fantastic! After the long days travel, the Belgium beer was well sampled.
After sussing the venue out, we went back to the hotel where the team could be found having an extremely relaxing morning around the pool. At 12.15 the team as a whole headed off back to the stadium with our first appointment with the vet. All dogs were measured and all fitted nicely in their height categories. We had measured the dogs several times before, during and after the qualifying year and so were sure we would not have any problems.
With all dogs passed fit to compete, we got to start the training session. Half an hour in each ring was far more time than we needed, but a nice relaxing training session allowed the dogs to get the feel of the equipment. When you compete abroad the equipment is sometimes different, the old frame tyre appears, the weave spacing is different and here the contact surface was made of rubber. No problems were found and all dogs were working well. The only problem was the glorious weather with temperatures nearing 30 degrees the dogs and handlers were hot! Back to the hotel where Tace worked her magic hands, massaging dogs and people.
We had a team meeting at 5pm to make sure all competitors knew and understood the rules. Then the team management and a couple of the competitors went to the welcome dinner. Draws were made in front of the audience so it was clear it was random with some more sampling of the beer and then back to the hotel.
Pete Van Dongen travelled out on Thursday to meet up with the team. Arriving at 11.30pm, the importance of a team vet came into play immediately. Ace was lame and Pete was put to work in the reception within five minutes of arriving. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Pete. Your support and expertise is invaluable to me when travelling abroad and we are very grateful to have you.
Another quick team meeting reminding everyone about foreign course design and we were back out for the first important run.
The Toys and Minis all had faults except Dawn with Chelsea who came in 5th with a nice clear. The Midis produced our first medal with Dawn with Minky storming round to get Silver. Last height was the Maxis. Dave and Spice were our only clear, but Spice was flying and won the Gold by over a second. We were on the podium in the first event and The National Anthem would be heard. It was a good start.
Then came the Maxis and Dave was just firing. Another win for him and Spice, 3 out of 3 wins on the first day, Spice looking as good as I have ever seen her and she was the only dog in all heights to beat the 30 second barrier. Mark and Trigga also had a good clear putting him in 4th and a nice place for the Biathlon contention. The toys went next and Sports Psychology experts would shudder when listening to my words of encouragement to Dave 'Okay fat man, get me a clear in under 30 seconds or else.' It worked, and Libby flew round clear in 30.11, becoming the second fastest dog of the day. two seconds faster than anyone else in the Toy division. Finally the Mini height and Karen put a nice solid clear round in with Ace. Then Wendy and Scout flew round, winning in 30.91.
The day ended with the ceremony for the P & S and the Individual Agility. Pedigree was the official sponsors of the event and bags of dog food were given out to all people who made the podium.
The anthems were played for the P & S as well as the agility. As Dave and Spice stepped on the podium, I was slightly apprehensive. Each country had had to provide their own national anthem and I had found two different versions. The team were given the option and choose the Brian May version! If you have not heard this I think it's the best God Save the Queen there is and actually gets the hair on the back of your neck standing up, as a national anthem should. This went down well with the crowd and was the end of what we considered a good day.
Saturday, 10 May
Due to the various sizes, we had slight alterations to the course to work for all but, at the end of the event, it was clear that as a team we had picked the right course. The gamble was all important. Unfortunately, as a team, only two dogs completed it. This did though bring a Gold medal for Wendy and Scout who accumulated more points than any other dog in the event. Jane also got the gamble with Keeta but had problems on the course, loosing several points. A big well done to Jean with Megan who was one of the few dogs to manage the bonus and send away twice in the course. As the only Westie at the event, it was nice to see the distance control she had.
Then it was Dave with Libby with our first gold medal chance. By the time he ran, we knew he only needed a clear as he had a two second lead in the Jumping and those running before him hadn't really looked like getting closer. I think though this backfired as Dave looked to go for the clear round. Libby, not used to this, jumped off her dog walk and got E'd. It was a big disappointment, but Dave had Spice to come so needed to forget it and concentrate on her straight away.
On to the Minis. Ace put in another good clear but due to the heat and perhaps the lameness he had suffered, he wasn't firing as Karen wished and came 11th overall. Wendy and Scout were running last and all fingers were crossed, hoping she could achieve a clear to bring home the Gold. It was a nervous finish and I think the shout of 'Scout!' was heard by those competing at Tonbridge Wells in the UK. Still it resulted in a great clear, winning the class and gaining the Gold in the Mini Biathlon.
Finally the Midis were in the ring. Angela and Pi went flat out. With 5 from the first run, they had nothing to loose. It was a good time but another 5 faults put her out of contention. The Russian dog in 3rd put in a very good run and Minky's slim lead of 0.2 from the Jumping was in doubt. Dawn put in a great run but had she got the Gold? On our own calculations it was down to a hundredth of a second and put her in Silver. When the official result was handed out later, thankfully we were wrong and Minky had won the Gold by 0.01 second. Dawn was not there to hear this so the team decided not to tell her.
The Maxi dogs went last and we had twp medal contenders. Mark with Trigga was lying in 4th. He put in a great run and went into the lead overall. Three dogs to go and the next team to run from the USA was clear but much slower than Trigga which meant we were guaranteed at least a Bronze. The Russian in 2nd place put in a very good clear with the fastest run so far. This time Dave couldn't be cautious and tactics were to go out and win it. He did with a fantastic run that meant we had three out of four Golds in the biggest event and also a Bronze. Well done all round.
Then on to the snooker with the team management smiling.
In the other heights, we wanted Golds and we weren't let down. Dave with Libby, Wendy with Scout and Dave with Spice all won Gold. Jane with Keeta just missed the podium in 4th and Dawn with Chelsea were 5th. With some small calculation, we worked out Dawn and Chelsea had got 3rd in the All Around. No one else managed the podium for the All Around. The way it is scored the games really are important so for those of you that are interested in 2010 start working now at those skills needed!
The final individual medal count was
An excellent result which at the time of writing we believe team GB was 2nd in the medal table to the Russians. Winning three out of four the Biathlon Golds was also very satisfying.
Sunday, 11 May
Unfortunately some of the non-English speaking countries had trouble understanding the rules, and there was quite a lot of confusion in the morning. Once all sorted the event began and team GB lined up as
We didn't have the best start with each team getting an elimination in the Agility. Off to the jumping where we made the tactical change, replacing Dawn and Minky for Jane and Keeta. Thankfully, for the team management, this worked but again each team had an E and our chances of a team medal had vanished.
The relay was to be the last run of the WAC and again we used our reserves, bringing Chris with Cap in for Dave and Spice and Angela with Pi for Jane and Keeta. We knew we had to push to try and move up the places and we had the boys versus girls. Sadly for me, the girls won between our two teams but neither team moved up the leader board. Tace spent most of the journey home repeating 'girls are better than boys!'
It was a disappointing end but the medal ceremonies throughout the day kept the team spirit very high. Brian May was heard seven times on Sunday and memories of Wendy playing the air guitar on the Gold medal podium will not be forgotten. Dawn's face and the various expressions during the Biathlon ceremony will always be remembered. Believing she had the silver, she was shocked when the silver medallist was announced. It wasn't her name. Confusion, doubt and anger turned to a big smile when she was announced in Gold. I even think there were tears showing at the end of the anthem!
Well done to all the team, medal winners and non-medal winners. You were all part of a great team and contributed to the success we had. A special well done to Jean. You were brilliant in the circumstances you were faced with, and the team management were very proud of you.
We would also like to thank our sponsors for making the trip possible including GRS Contractors, Gro Well Joint Aid, S.D. O'Connor, JAPA Sound, Dragon Veterinary Centre (Cheltenham), Potter Adams Lts (Accountants Wellington Somerset), Burns dog food, The Agility Club, JDA Agility Equipment, Deane Veterinary Centre, Donyat DC, Shakspeare Glass (Taunton), The Mount Veterinary Hospital (Wellington Somerset), Fairlamb Training Day, Paul Wood and all those who supported the Raffle.
Roll on IFCS WAC 2010. You never know, it may be closer to home.