Friday, 4 August 2017

Reflecting on the EO 2017

By now many agility handlers from across the globe will have read about the European Open (EO) recently held in Salice Terme, Italy. These Championships are one of the three top competitions held by the FCI (the main international body governing dog sports). The other two championships being the Agility World Championships (AWC), to be held in the Czech Republic in October and the European Open for Juniors (EOJ) recently held in Luxembourg. 

The EO has had a chequered history as its grown into the event it is today. Way back there were stories of the competition running under flood lights late into the night, poor standard of equipment, lots of mud and all sorts of  challenges for the organisers. The event we attended in Italy was totally different and without doubt the best organised EO I’ve attended.

Agility Team GB are invited to the EO as we are not full members of the FCI, which gives us the opportunity to compete alongside 40+ countries from a far away as Russia, China, USA, Brazil and most European countries. This is a great privilege and allows us to compete against the best dogs & handlers in the World.  Our team selection process is rigorous and identifies the top handlers in the UK who are interested in international competition. 

I’m sure every year when I blog about the EO I say ‘the standard seen this year was the best yet’…and guess what, it’s the same this year.  Even hardened, experienced EO competitors commented on the incredible standard seen this year. So what do I mean by the ‘incredible standard’…

For a start dogs and handlers are getting faster, no surprises there. A few years ago dogs in the medium and large category were hitting 5.5 metres per second (MPS), a crude, but fairly accurate way of measuring dog speed on an agility course.  This year dogs were hitting 6 MPS+, a huge increase.

Handling has got even more technical, accurate and precise. The German team were at most, if not all prize givings. They appear to have applied their engineering excellence to dog agility. Technically brilliant in their handling style, pin-point accuracy in handler positioning, precision timing and obviously consistent dog training.  However, Germany wasn’t the only team to demonstrate these skills. Other teams have also visibly improved by large margins since 2016.

Enough about our competition, what about Agility Team GB?

Team GB Red EO2017 Team Relay Final Silver Medalist.
Picture by Simon Peachey 
We took probably the strongest EO team to date. Traditionally our large team and medium height category have been our strongest areas.  

This year the large team red, (we had three large teams red, white & blue) won the silver medal in the team event. This was the first time we’ve won a medal in the team relay final. 

We also had four handlers qualify for the individual final. Again, this was a great result given the strength of the competition and this year there were no automatic win-on spots.

Agility Team GB did very well considering how different agility is in Europe to the UK and how that difference is getting even bigger. A subject for my next blog...

Agility Team GB EO2017 - Picture by Simon Peachey 

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