The 2009 European Open
By Brenna Fender, photos courtesy of Lori Borrowman
The European Open, billed as the largest international agility event in the world, took place July 25 and 26, 2009, at Sportcomplex Papendal in Arnhem, Holland, an hour outside of Amsterdam, near the German border. Individual competition took place on the first day and team events on the second. Competitors enjoyed ideal weather as they tested themselves against challenging European courses and watched handling styles from all over the world.
The competition had an Olympic feel with an opening ceremony, complete with flags from each participating country. Also, at each awards ceremony, Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners stood on raised podiums while listening to the national anthem of the 1st place team.
Unlike FCI and IFCS World Team events, the European Open is in fact “open” to all US competitors (and competitors from other select countries). No pedigree is required, so dogs of all breeds and mixes may have the chance to represent their home country at this exciting event. This year, there were 32 spots open to competitors from the US, but only 26 dogs attended with 24 handlers.
Teams were formed largely within countries, although teams consisting of members from various countries were also allowed. Each team had three or four dogs. Large dog teams needed to be made up of all large dogs, but small and medium dogs could be mixed on the same team. The US was short one member to fill out a final large dog team, so one of the teams included an extra British competitor.
Team manager Nancy Gyes and assistant team manager Janneke Case prepared US team competitors for the experience. Dutch-speaking Case was helpful in coordinating paperwork and doing other tasks to make the experience go as smoothly as possible.
The first day’s competition was individual; everyone ran against each other for placements. The competitive atmosphere didn’t make enemies of the US team, though, who dined together the night before and cheered for each other throughout the competition. Lori Borrowman, who travelled from Florida with her Poodle, April, to compete at the event, says, “Our team was very supportive of each other and we worked well together. It was like a happy family exploring the world together and experiencing new things. We just worked well as a team and cheered each other on.”
The event seemed similar to an average agility trial, although without the printed course maps that many US competitors rely on. “I thought I was going to die. I live for my course map,” says Borrowman, who instead had just an 8-minute walk-through for course memorization and strategizing. “That was different for me, but I survived,” she adds.
Another notable difference for Borrowman came when a dog earned an elimination during a run. She says, “The judge walks away while you finish the run. They stop watching you and go do something or grab a bite to eat or drink.” She adds, “After all, there is no longer a need to watch you; they are done judging. But it was weird to see them just walk away.”
Both individual and team competition days were set up with one round of Agility (what we call Standard here in the US) and one round of Jumpers for each of the three jump heights. Each round was scored for faults and time for each competitor. Competitors who placed in the top 20 in either Agility or Jumpers qualified for the Final. Dog and handler teams that made it into the top 20 in both rounds had the worse of the two scores dropped and the next ranking team in that class moved up so that all 40 places were filled for the Finals. The top team from each country and height category (based on a point system set up by the European Open) qualified for the Final as well, and so did the winners of the 2008 European Open from all three height categories.
Several US competitors made it into the individual finals: Large dog competitors Nancy Gyes and Ace and Mindy Lytle and Switch (both Border Collies); Medium teams Sarah Dow and Siryn and Melanie Miller and Smitten (Border Collies); and small dog class members Sue Megenty and Swedish Valhund Jente, Barb Davis and Shetland Sheepdog Rock-It, and Katie Trachte and Shetland Sheepdog, Jeep. Nancy Gyes and Ace won a Bronze medal in the Large Individual finals. This was the first American placement at a European Open.
Winner of the Gold medal in the Large category was Krisztina Kabai with Chilli (Border Collie). The Medium category winner was Jari Suomalainen with Frodo (Small Dutch Waterfowl Dog) and the Small winner was Nicola Giraudi with Twister (Parson Russell Terrier).
After an exciting day full of individual competition, handlers worked together for the Team competition on the 26th, held in two categories: Large and combined Medium/Small. The team competition was made up of one Agility round and one Jumping round. In each round, competitors were ranked by faults and time. The placements were used to assign points according to the number of competitors in that round. The points from the best three runs on each Team counted for the Team score. The winning Team had the highest point score after both rounds.
The winning Large dog team was Never Give Up, made up of Andrea Kristina Deeg and Hope (Border Collie), Philipp Müller-Schnick and (Border Collie), Tobias Wüst and Don (Belgian Shepherd Dog, Malinois) and Wolfgang Schmitt and Garry (Border Collie). The winning Medium/Small team was Finland Team 4, made up of Sami Oksa and Luka (Small Dutch Waterfowl Dog), Jari Suomalainen and Frodo (Small Dutch Waterfowl Dog), Jari Laitinen and Robi (Small Dutch Waterfowl Dog), and Anu Niemi and Viima (Kromfohrländer).
Despite the extreme effort involved in traveling internationally with dogs, US competitors had a great time at the European Open. Borrowman, who had two flights totaling more than 11 hours to reach the event, was very worried about traveling for such a long period of time in the air with her dog. “Everything went smoothly because I was prepared,” she says. Borrowman found representing the US in international competition to be very rewarding. “Although it was a dog trial, it was still exciting to wear a USA team uniform and walk into the arena holding our flag high, representing the United States. It gave a small chill with goose bumps. That was a cool feeling,” she says. She also enjoyed the camaraderie between countries: “All the countries were very supportive of each other. When a dog and handler team messed up, you could hear the loud ‘Oh’ from everyone. It wasn’t like we were different countries competing against each other; it was more like a group of people appreciating each other’s style and skill and enjoying watching each other.”
Nancy Gyes also really enjoys the European Open every year. She says, “I love the EO! Most of the teams that will compete at the World Championships are there, but there are twice as many dogs competing. And it is outdoors on grass, where I really love to compete.” She adds, “It was exciting and rewarding and I will keep going as long as I feel I have a competitive dog. Because I coach the AKC/USA World Team and don’t compete at that event, this is my world championships!”
A DVD was produced by Agility Vision after the event and is available from the Clean Run store. This DVD contains the action-packed individual finals: 60 finalists from each of the international jump heights (14", 18", and 26"). Agility greats like Silas Boogk, Nancy Gyes, Jari Suomalainen, and Sylvia Trkman, to name just a few, make their way to the line. The DVD includes side-by-side slow-motion comparison of the 1st and 2nd place winners in each height division as well as commentary by agility judge and competitor Marq Cheek.
To see the courses and final results from the 2009 EO, go to:
The 2009 European Open US team members—Large Dogs: Nancy Gyes/Ace, Susan Cochran/Aiko, Ann Zarr/Skylar, Elicia Calhoun/Nika, David Skvorak/Dan, Lisa Marie Bowers/Slick, Elicia Calhoun/Bree Sea, Olga Chaiko/Yankee, Roger Anderson/Sweep. Medium Dogs: Melanie Miller/Smitten, Tracy Sklenar/Export, Suzi Cope/Jib, Sarah Dow/Siryn. Small Dogs: Janneke Case/Roo, Lisa Jarvis/Reebok, Anna Ericsson/Harry, Barb Davis/Rock-It, Mary Jo Johnson/Sully, Della Sliker/Jazzmine, Janneke Case/Binkie, Katie Trachte/Jeep, Anne Stocum/Breeze, Sue Megenity/Jente, Lori Borrowman/April, Deborah McBride/Chase.