Annex B - M Laker Report - European Open

Agility Liaison Council
22 January 2014
Item 4.c.
Annex B
European Open Agility Championships 25th – 28th July 2013 in Neeroeteren, Belgium
When I received the call offering me the job of Agility Team GB Manager back in October 2012, I
was incredibly happy but aware of what a great responsibility I was about to take on. The role of
Team Manager is in many ways my dream job, as it not only provides me with a chance to put my
learning, research and coaching skills into practice but also an opportunity to build a world class
agility team.
While it would be a privilege to represent Great Britain, I recognised that there would be a lot of
work to do before the European Open (EO). Training began in earnest following the selection of
the team at the Performance Weekend in April. In the months leading up to the EO, the team of
16 handlers attended six training sessions and practiced on the many course plans made
available by this year’s judges. My support team put in a lot of hard work helping the squad
prepare for what was going to be one of the toughest EOs to date, due to this year's high entry of
34 Teams with 800 dogs.
Although the team enjoyed a comfortable journey on the Eurotunnel, on Wednesday morning, we
arrived in Belgium to scorching temperatures in the 30s. On the Thursday, we made our way to
the arena so that the dogs could undergo a vet check and the handlers could get an idea of what
to expect. The team were also given the opportunity to practice on the equipment.
The first day of the competition was made up of Team Classes for each height category. As it
can take more than two years to qualify as a judge in Europe, the courses are often cleverly
designed. The EO was no different featuring fast, technical, big open courses with high calibre
judges. The first day finished with Team Red finishing 12th, securing a place in Sunday's final.
Day two threw up some challenging Individual classes, which tested handling skills, dog &
handler physical ability and mental fitness. Due to a shifting sand surface under both dog and
handler, many teams had a few unfortunate runs with bars dropped and valuable points lost.
Undeterred, Team GB put in many fantastic runs. This caught the attention of fellow competitors
and coaches.
The Team finished day two exhausted but elated with their achievements. Superb results saw
two of the four small dogs qualify for the finals, along with all four medium dogs and four of the
seven large dogs. Sian Illingworth had secured 1st place in the Medium Individual Agility and
Shaun Hunt came 2nd in the Large Individual Agility.
Thankfully the temperature dropped over night and there was a breeze which helped energy
levels for finals day. We had been experiencing temperatures of over 30 degrees on Friday and
Saturday along with a few terrific storms. If there were going to be any outbursts or thunder bolts
on Sunday, it was coming from Team GB!
Sunday kicked off with the Team Relay. Four courses were built within one ring, featuring four
start lines, four finish lines, two dog-walks, two A-Frames and goodness knows how many pipe
tunnels. Team Red produced three clear runs, resulting in a very respectable final position of joint
The Small dog final was another demanding course. The current and previous World Champions
put in super-fast runs taking 1st and 2nd Place. Bernadette and Zaz and Louise and Smudge
achieved 5th and 10th place.
All four Medium dogs qualified for their final which was once again a very fast, technical course
with a few handling options that proved crucial. No one could fail to notice the intense
atmosphere that surrounded the class and the Team were gripped as Natasha & Dizzy and Sian
& Maybe reached the final top ten. In her final run Natasha achieved a time of 36.916 seconds
and looked unbeatable, until now no one had beaten 39 seconds. However, when Sian stepped
on the line the hundreds of spectators went silent. Despite the intense pressure, Sian and Maybe
rocketed round the course in a time of 36.291 seconds. The crowd erupted, Team GB had
secured Gold and Silver!
By the time the large dogs ran, everyone had settled down again. Greg was first and he set the
standard for the other 84 handlers. He stayed in the lead for over half the competition finishing in
a creditable 7th place. Matt and Shaun were in the last 10 to run and both had incredibly fast
runs. Shaun's dog Phix was marked on his up-contact, if not for this, his time would have secured
him first place. Matt and Quincy were one of only three to get a clear round in under 40 seconds
finishing their first EO in an impressive 3rd place.
The final prize giving and closing ceremony cemented what a great championships this had been
for the team. To have two handlers on the podium at once was an incredible moment for us.
Picking up so many places has certainly set Agility Team GB very firmly back in spot light as a
team to be reckoned with.
The successes were truly down to team effort. Everyone involved with the preparation and work
at the Championships played a crucial part. In addition to my support team I would like to say a
huge thank you to our sponsors the Kennel Club, CSJ Specialist Canine Feeds and Eurotunnel.
Without whom this would not have been possible.
Full Team
GB Union Jacks - Small / Medium
Sian Illingworth - Maybe
Nicola Wildman – Zoom
David Wright - Otis
Louise Eden & Smudge
GB Red - Small / Medium
Natasha Wise - Dizzy
Steve Richardson - Liby
Bernadette Bay - Zaz
Rosie Cavill - Spice
GB White - Large
Shaun Hunt - Phix
Ian Jackson - Bobbie
Roger Teasdale - Jingo
Karen Marriot - Puzzle
GB Blue Large
Greg Derrett - Detox
Matt Goodliffe - Quincy
Charlotte Harding - Scandal
Support Team
Mark Laker - Manager
Marc Saunders - Assistant
Rachel Mowbray - Vet
Emma Fretwell / Tace Allen-Hunt - Chiropractor
Ruth MacGill - Handler Fitness Coach (non-travelling)
Emma Butler - Data Analysis (non-travelling)