2009 FCI Agility World Championships
By Brenna Fender, photos courtesy Carrie DeYoung
On September 18-20, 2009, the American Kennel Club’s FCI Agility World Team faced 33 other nations in the battle for one of agility’s highest honors: to be the FCI World Agility Champions. Approximately 35 supporters joined the team, made up of 11 handlers and their dogs, on the trip to Dornbirn, Austria. These spectators provided support to the Small, Medium, and Large dog teams who were still reeling from the loss of team member Geri Hernandez’s Border Collie, Focus, who unexpectedly passed away just before the event.
The team, made up of both new members and repeat World Championship competitors, worked hard to prepare for this year’s challenge. After members were chosen in May, they trained for the event with the guidance of Coach Nancy Gyes. A well-prepared group of dogs and handlers represented the US at the 2009 World Championships.
After getting some practice time on September 13th and 14th with Coach Gyes and Assistant Coach Kathie Leggett, the team enjoyed the opening ceremonies on September 18th and paid tribute to Hernandez and the late Focus by carrying posters with his picture on them during the US portion of the parade of countries. Then it was time to get down to business.
Over the three-day event, the competitors ran in Team Jumping and Agility (what we call Standard here in the US) classes (each divided into Small, Medium, and Large dogs), and Individual Jumping and Agility, again separated by size. All the pre-event preparation was helpful, according to Ashley Deacon and his Pyrenean Shepherd, Luka, who were team members two years in a row. “One of the great things this year and last year is that the USA team was able to practice several times on the actual surface that was used for the competition. I think this was a great benefit for both the dogs and the handlers.” Karen Holik, who along with her Shetland Sheepdog, Sizzle, was a member of the Medium team, agrees: “The courses were challenging, but nothing that I had not trained in the previous months. Nancy Gyes prepared us all before the competition for what she thought we would see. It was our job to train all the skills again and again.” Gyes’s coaching was highly praised by many, including Medium team member Jennifer Crank, who says, “Nancy did an amazing job of studying the previous courses from the judges and preparing the team for challenges we might see at the World Championships.”
The preparation paid off: the AKC/USA Medium Agility World Team won a Silver medal and Marcus Topps and Juice won the Silver medal in the Large Dog Individual Competition (to add to the Gold medal they won in this event last year as well). Gyes says, “We had some great results coming home with two Silver medals. There were 34 countries at the World Championships. Nine of them won all of the medals. Seven countries took home two medals. Finland and Russia each won two Golds. The USA was the only country with two Silvers. Twenty-five countries went home without reaching the podium at all.” Gyes adds, “No country had three medals. We came really close to getting three or four medals, so our performances at the event were competitive and I think speak to the fact that we are on the right course in preparing for challenges of this event.”
The trip to Austria wasn’t all work and no play for team members. “The team trained early in the week after arriving in Austria, and we had parts of a few days to do local sightseeing, which was incredible,” says Gyes. With three minivans at their disposal, team members broke up into groups and enjoyed lots of fun activities. “We did some hiking in the Austrian Alps, which was fun. It helped us relax and forget about agility for a bit and just enjoy the scenery,” says Deacon. Katie Conn, who competed with her Shetland Sheepdog, Twix, also had fun exploring Europe during the event. “We took a gondola ride in two different towns. In one town, Bregenz, we saw a falcon show. It was really cool,” she says. Crank adds, “I spent one day in Innsbruck with my family visiting all the Olympic sights. We went to the top of the ski jump, rode a cable car to the start of the cross country skiing, and even got to walk the track for the bobsleds. The best part was that Blaster went with me everywhere. He rode in the cable car as if nothing was different than riding in a car.” Channan Fosty, on the team for the first time with her Border Collie, Icon, says “We took a gondola up a mountain and went for a hike and found a cute restaurant seemingly in the middle of nowhere. We went geocaching with [AKC Agility Director] Andy Hartman, and actually found a few things.”
Both on the course and off, competitors had a great time at this year’s FCI Agility World Championships. Paulette Swartzendruber, who attended with her Shetland Sheepdog, Rush, says, “There is a lot of stress being on the team, some very much self-imposed and some put on just by being there to represent your country. But in the long, run for those who can learn to take it on, it is more than worth it!”
For more information about the AKC team’s performance at this event, including photos, visit www.akc.org/events/agility/world/2009/event_coverage.cfm.
Click here to download courses from the event.
Click here for video coverage of the event.