Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Team Malaysia at IFCS WAC 2010 UK

Day 1 of WAC 2010 competition and we marched into the ring with flag bearers in alphabetical order, very much like the opening ceremony of the Olympics, which was cool. Inevitably I thought it was race, pulled and tugged on the leash in an attempt to overtake the other nations marching ahead of us, but was disappointed when I noticed that there was no finish line in sight.

Many teams had sponsors for their tracksuits and gear, hence they looked very professional and coordinated in team colours. My owners wore Team Malaysia Groovy T-shirts as well but the weather wasn’t suited for Tees, so our gear was snugly hidden under our jackets and sweaters. As a result, we looked more like tourists who have stumbled upon a countryside show.

Lots of dogs on parade including Papillons, Corgis, JRTs, Westies, Shelties, Poodles, Whippets, Teruveans, Mixys and bus loads of Border Collies. They looked like lean, mean running machines.We were up for Snookers and Agility Individual events. Handlers were divided into 2 groups and was a real experience for Mr Owner to walk the course with 50 other handlers at the same time. All of a sudden, the competition became real, tense and urgent and Mr Owner had to be on his toes so as not to walk into other participants. Teams were discussing tactics, strategies and running lines … and some even had stop watches to time their runs during the course familiarization, intense!

Without doubt, the team’s presence does help to calm nerves, allow colleagues to gather their thoughts and discuss alternatives. Something that Team Malaysia could have done with but we were running solo. Thankfully, Mr Owner had the opportunity to catch some teams running beforehand as he noticed a couple of jumps which he had planned to take from the wrong side … must be the adrenalin plus confusion of walking the course with 50 handlers at the same time. Last thing you want to do at the world championships is forget and run the wrong course sequence. Agility can be a high pressure sport … for humans, haha.Fairly cold day and dogs were benched in the horse stables in the adjoining building. We didn’t book a stable so I had to make do with camping along the stable corridors in my crate. The wind blowing through the corridors didn’t help. Felt chilly and Ms Owner had to buy a fleece coat plus blanket from the trade stands to give me added cover. The benching arrangement was far from ideal and charging teams for benching dogs appeared a tad too commercialised for me.

Other than that, the whole event was well organized and professionally handled by UK Agility Club right from the collecting, warm up and agility rings to stewardship, ring set up and judging. They had a fool proof 5 point collecting system in place – 1 station for gathering the next 5 teams in line, 1 for the warm up ring, 1 after the warm up ring, 1 for handling over treats/ toys and final 1 at the entry to the main ring, impressive. Phew, getting into the WAC agility ring is even tougher than getting through UK Customs! This allowed the event to run smoothly without delays as they had close to 100 dogs running in 3 separate events in each day of competition, which meant up to 300 runs per day.

Complicated and challenging Snookers course was laid out by Janet Gaunt (USA Judge) with 3 separate obstacle combinations thrown in. We decided to be greedy and go for the 7-7-5 opening combo but I took the 3 point jump in between a difficult pull through, which meant that we had to make an impromptu switch to a 3-7-7 opening. We made the 3-7-7 combo but ran out of time in the closing period to miss out on the 6 and 7 point obstacles, finishing with 34 points out of a maximum of 51 and placing 18th. Not too bad, considering we had to take a revised route and almost ran into each other twice … that close to elimination but a swift recovery saved us. Most intricate Snooker course we have ever encountered and were relieved to have completed it.

Individual Agility course set by Wim Bekendam (Netherlands Judge) was fast and laden with traps. Most dogs were very swift, could turn on a dime around hurdles and had very reliable running contacts but tend to get sucked into the tunnel traps, which resulted in a number of eliminations. I missed 2 contacts and finished with a time of 42s which was good enough for 13th place, out of 25 mini dogs. Will gladly take the mid-table finish but still have much work to do on the running contacts.

Canadian agility guru, Susan Garret and her 2 Border Collies, Feature and Encore, gave a crisp and controlled display to take 1st and 3rd spots respectively in the Maxi class. Team Japan ran a number of very fast BCs as well. Team Russia were most impressive with capable dogs across all classes from Toy up to Maxi and they dominated the competition. Right angled entries into weave poles at full speed! … I desperately need to figure that out.

End of Day 1 and took time out at The Plough’s Inn for a short nap while the humans gorged themselves in yet another feast at the local pub.Day 2 saw Jumping Biathlon and Gamblers being run. Netherlands Judge laid out a fast, tricky course with 4 tunnels thrown in for good measure. The tunnel traps and tight mid-sequence again lead to the elimination of many teams. Was running well till the 12th obstacle/jump when Mr Owner hesitated momentarily and leaned the wrong way which caused me to run across his path, quickly regrouped for the correct jump but took my eye off him and back-jumped over the same hurdle which meant elimination. We went on to complete the run in a time of 37s. Our favourite event but slight miscue cost us … there goes our goal for a top 10 finish.

Could tell that some teams have trained frequently on specific jump sequences as the handler and dog seemed to go into auto-pilot mode when approaching these sequences, which speaks volumes of their training methods.Gamblers course was an interesting variant with a 3 point and 15 point gamble bonus located at opposite ends of the ring, plus a tricky pull back into the open tunnel for the closing sequence. We spent too much time at the other end, rushed back for the closing sequence, clipped a bar and the gamble was lost. 21 points accumulated which meant a lowly 22nd place. Tough closing sequence saw few teams making the gamble.In between all the action, we slipped away for a half-day trip to the Lock Keeper pub in Keynsham which boasted a swell beer garden overlooking the Avon river … the perfect spot for winding down. As the Brits love the sun, pubs with beer gardens are much sought after. Many brought their dogs along to partake in their favourite past time … baking in the sun with beer in hand.Managed to fit in frisbee sessions at the delightful Queen Victoria park in the ancient Roman town of Bath. Dogs stomping freely in spacious green fields are the norm in this country and my owners felt very much at ease having me tag along in the various parks and pubs. On the other hand, frisbee dogs aren’t as common and I stopped many locals in their tracks with my airborne antics. With my purple fleece vest on, I looked the part of a flying brinjal.

I love the green, green grass …

Treat Counter