Posted Date: May 23, 2016
A recap of the events at last month's World Agility Championships with insight from Team USA members.
This year's IFCS World Agility Championship presented the most competitive group of handlers and dogs from around the globe that the event has ever seen. The Russian team dismantled courses and demonstrated superiority in strategic handling and training, surpassing last year's successes by showing repeatedly a mastery of teamwork between dog and handler. Their reliance on their dogs' training in tight elements on the courses enabled handlers to carry them through select strategic elements of courses to free the handler up to move freely about the course and gain the fractions of a second needed in many cases to capture their numerous wins.
Team USA placed fourth in the medals, capturing five - Gold, three Silver, and one Bronze - with some stellar performances:
- Andy Mueller and Crackers brought home the Gold and two Silver medals:
- Gold Medal in Individual Standard
- Silver Medal in Individual All Around
- Silver Medal in Individual Jumping
- Chip Gerfen and Trudi took the Silver Medal in Gamblers
- Marcy Mantel and Stripe earned the Bronze Medal in Gamblers
Other team members turned in some solid rounds just outside the medals.
Team members found their experience in the Netherlands at the World Agility Championships to be eye-opening. Competitor Shane Miller expressed, "The experience was awesome! Seeing as there was only one course being run at one time you could sit in the stands and watch the other countries and your teammates run, big and small! At previous international events I've been to [they have] multiple rings, and it is very hard to actually sit and watch teams run. So I really enjoyed being able to watch the other competitors." Yukari Nishimura said the experience was "Fantastic! I made lots of new friends and saw great runs from great athletes. Courses were challenging, but very fun to run." Melanie Miller agreed: "I found the entire IFCS experience incredibly inspiring, and I cannot wait to go back!" She adds, "It was a huge test to my mental game. It was a marathon of many long days."
Reflecting upon their performance, gold and silver medalist Andy Mueller said, "If I would have been able to, I would have liked to set up and run more previous courses from the different judges. With Crackers unable to do agility this fall and winter with an iliopsoas injury there was not a lot more preparation I could have done."
In terms of challenges, some team members felt that the pace of the event was a factor. Shane Miller said, "Five days of being up at 5:30 every morning and not getting back to the hotel until after 8 pm every day was difficult. So by day four and five, it was a challenge to summon the energy up to focus on the task at hand." Andy Mueller relates that, "The courses get more and more challenging each year. This year the level of handling to get successfully through the courses was pretty high, and I think it showed in the high fault rate in some of the classes."
The team found many aspects particularly pleasing to them during the event. Yukari Nishimura said while pleased with her twelfth place finish in biathlon, "I was inspired by the other great handlers from other countries. I need to work harder and have a lot of homework to do." Of his successes, Andy Mueller was particularly happy with the standard and jumpers runs that he had with his dog Crackers: "We felt very connected during those runs. I am also very proud of the gamblers runs that Chip Gerfen and Trudi had along with Marcy Mantel and Stripe as they both brought home medals from that class."
What did the team learn from the event? Shane Miller
remarked on the incredible performance of the Russian team: "The Russians are
crazily good at IFCS. I had been told how good they were, but seeing it in
person for five straight days was something else. "Andy Mueller adds that,
'What I have learned from all the international events I have done is just to
enjoy being there. Not everyone is as lucky as I have been to travel around the
world with a good group of friends and your dog & I feel truly lucky to have been
able to attend and compete at these events with Crackers."
On winning three medals, Andy Mueller said that, "It
always feels great to win a medal for the USA Team. It is hard to explain the
joy and happiness of standing on the podium in front of your fellow competitors,
friends, and teammates and having the national anthem play. I couldn't reduce
the smile on my face if I tried. Crackers is pretty familiar with the podium,
but this year with him just coming back from his injury and not knowing exactly
how we would do or what his speed would be coming back, it was just a little
more special. Plus, he will be eight-years-old soon, so you just don't know how
much longer we will be able to compete at this level. It makes me really
appreciate every trip to the start line, let alone to the podium."
Team member Catherine Laria put together a video
of her own to show how she enjoyed her experienced at IFCS. She is sharing it
with us (although she notes this was created for personal use and music credits are at the
end of the video!) https://vimeo.com/164297972/9cd26ed2a9
We should also congratulate Japan's Miki Miura who was a Silver Medalist in the Individual All Around. Her group OPDES is a long time affiliate of USDAA and they continually show support for IFCS and Cynosport on a regular basis.
Team USA and the United States Association of Cynological Support would like to thank the many contributors to this year's team travel. A special thanks to major sponsors and contributors:
- United States Dog Agility Association
- Max 200
- Jill Rossi
- Maryse Shank
- Dana Shuster
- Janet Gauntt