ADAA and Australia at the IFCS World Agility Championships 2008

View photos of the Australian Team

View the full 2008 Results

WAC Course: Power & Speed – Individual (Judge: Cathy Slot, Australia) (PDF)

WAC Course: Standard – Triathlon (Judge: Cathy Slot, Australia) (PDF)

WAC Course: Snooker – Individual (Judge: Cathy Slot, Australia) (PDF)

The IFCS World Agility Championships held in Ingelmunster, Belgium in May 2008 saw Australia competing for the first time!!! ADAA has been an official member of the IFCS (International Federation of Cynological Sports) since 2002 and since that time, Australia has had a high profile within the Federation in an official capacity. But distance and quarantine restrictions have kept us out of the competition arena, until now.

Through the generosity of the members of the Host Organisation Cynological Society V.O.E. (Belgium), two host country dogs were made available for Australian handlers to compete with at the Championships. These two dogs, Malinka (owned by Niko and Els de Smet) and Gizzy (owned by Ronny Van Eekhouette), both Border Collies, had just missed out on selection for the Belgian team.

Malinka, Mal, Tracey and Gizzy

As Steve Drinkwater explained “The IFCS will only allow host dogs to be used on a case by case requirement, and will usually only approve their use when the country making the request has problems with quarantine and custom laws that either prohibit or make it very difficult for the country in question to travel with their own dogs. It was a first for the IFCS to allow host dogs to be used by Australia and has set the precedent for future WAC events.”

Mal Williams and Tracey Harrison-Hill, both experienced and highly respected competitors and judges, were given the opportunity at the 11th hour to run these dogs in the Championships. Both Mal and Tracey were already booked to go as spectators and supporters, so it was an opportunity of a life time and an unexpected dream come true for them both.

It was a huge undertaking for Tracey and Mal with only three training sessions prior to the start of competition. In this time it had to be decided who would run which dog, with the decision being to team up Mal with Malinka (the two Mals) and Tracey with Gizzy. They worked on relationship building, understanding the type of handling and training the dogs were accustomed to and the fact that neither dog spoke English!!!

Some of the commands that Mal and Tracey had to master were:
Plaats = Place, lie down and stay
Paaltjes = Weave
Blijven = stay, on the contacts and at the start
Links = left
Rechts = right
Los = loose, let go of the toy

All the training sessions were videoed and Tracey and Mal spent hours each evening poring over the tapes and also tapes of the dogs running in other competitions.

Cathy Slot (Australian Judge) and Penny Mead (Australian Team Manager)
enjoying sightseeing at Ingelmunster, Belgium

The individual competition took place over two days, with seven events spread over the two days. And Mal and Malinka, Tracey and Gizzy did Australia proud. In each event the teams got stronger and stronger and the cheers from the crowd got louder and louder each time the Aussie team was announced. It took a while to filter through to the other competitors that Mal and Tracey were not running their own dogs, and once that was known, there was so much admiration and encouragement for the wonderful job they were doing.

The final day was a team event, and with only two dogs, Australia was not able to take part, though Mal and Tracey were itching to be amongst it all again. It did however give them a chance to watch in awe some of the best agility dogs in the world!! The final results had Russia first, with Netherlands second and Canada taking out third place. In the Individual All-Around Challenge, Tracey and Gizzy took out a creditable 16th place in the Maxi class with Mal and Malinka coming in at 26th.

In addition to competing, ADAA had a very high officiating profile at the Championships. Steve Drinkwater served as Head/Chief judge for the Championships and Cathy Slot served as one of the four international judges, alongside judges from Russia, Spain and host country Belgium.

When asked for her judging highlight from the Championships, Cathy replied “For my part, having known and trained with Susan Garrett, I can only say that her run in Snookers (to win the Gold Medal) was unbelievable. The Russians had set a phenomenal time (with 3 7’s, maximum score of 51). The set up made that achievable only by the best teams. Even under that pressure, Susan rose to the challenge and sent Encore into a Weave Pole entry, not once but twice, that became unbeatable. Congratulations to her.”

Cathy, Mal and Penny sampling the local cuisine.

One of the most treasured memories for me is the wonderful generosity shown by Malinka and Gizzy’s owners, and I know Mal and Tracey feel exactly the same way. But Tracey said it so well “There were three very, very special people I’ve met here in Belgium that have made our stay very welcoming … an experience I will never forget. So to Ronny, Els and Niko, a HUGE thank you! Competing at the WAC for Australia would never have been possible without your willingness to loan us your dogs and then your constant and unwavering support throughout the event. Ronny was always nearby, quick to answer questions about Gizzy and to help us celebrate each run. I hope one day to be able to return the favour and hospitality!”

Both on and off the field Tracey, Mal, Cathy and Steve were such wonderful ambassadors for Australia and for ADAA. To see the Australian flag waving at the opening and closing ceremonies, to hear the applause from the crowd whenever the Aussies took the field and to see Mal and Tracey represent Australia so proudly and so well …. it was awesome.

And looking forward to the next World Agility Championships in 2010, Australia and ADAA plan to be there again, and hoping to field a larger team of handlers representing the best Australia has to offer.

Dr Penny Mead
Team Manager, Team Australia

IFCS Officials and Judges (L to R)

Steve Drinkwater (IFCS Council – Australia)
Yuri Ostashenko (IFCS Council – Russia)
Elena Chuhina (Judge – Russia)
Walter Casier (Judge – Belgium)
Cathy Slot (Judge – Australia)
Francisco Alegre (Judge – Spain)
Luis Ciurana (IFCS Council – Spain)
Ken Tatsch (IFCS Council – USA)