Photography by wattsphotography.co.uk
Nearly 400 dogs from 32 countries spent May 16-18 in Lignano, Italy, to compete at the 2014 World Agility Open (WAO). The event was designed to showcase the highest level of agility training, human and canine partnership, and athleticism, to acknowledge the dog as an athlete and equally important member of the agility partnership, and to enable all dogs, regardless of pedigree (or lack thereof), to compete in an environment that is focused entirely on the sport of agility.
There were 39 medals available at the event. They were shared by 16 countries, a big change from previous years in which only 9 or 10 countries medaled. The event, which debuted in 2011, is drawing more talented teams each year! Russia was the top medal-winner in 2014, with 7 awards. England placed second in the medal count, earning 5 trips to the podium.
Competitors found the courses at this year’s competition to be challenging. Team USA member Dave Grubel says, “Some of the courses were really hard. As a handler, I had to rely on the past year of prep and training for techniques to use. Keeping focused on the job at hand, whether it was walking the course or actually running, is so critical at these events. There is no ‘make-up.’ And when it’s done, you can enjoy supporting and cheering on your teammates.”
It seems, though, that while the competition was challenging, enjoying the event was not! Organizers Monica Percival and Greg Derrett worked hard to make this year’s competition the best so far. Derrett says, “WAO 2014 was a big step forward in many areas and I’m very proud of what we have achieved in four years. This year’s main ring had a real ‘big arena’ feeling and that went a long way to creating such great agility. The atmosphere of the event was excellent this year and it really is great to see agility people from around the world coming together to enjoy our sport and making friendships. From the feedback we have received, it seems many regard the 2014 event as the best so far.”
The WAO is a competition created by competitors to provide entrants with the best possible international agility experience. It is not run by or sanctioned by any agility organization, so event organizers can make decisions quickly and in the best interest of all involved, incorporating competitor feedback.
Competitors were very pleased with the efforts made by organizers to provide an excellent experience. The surface, vendors, site, nearby conveniences, and overall organization were all highly praised. “The event has grown significantly each year and each year it improves! It seemed like careful thought was put in for how to time the days so things were very evenly spaced out,” says Team USA member Ivette White, who attended her fourth WAO in 2014. Terry Herman, who was a new member of the US team, says that the event exceeded her expectations. “It was the best major agility event I’ve ever been to. Brilliantly run, great site, great people and dogs, great agility,” she says.
Team England’s members also shared in the praise for the event. Shaun Hunt says, “Having done all four WAO championships, I found this year to be best by far. I think the main reason was the venue—every competitor being on site, a brilliant running surface, private beach, canteens, and bar being all within a five-minute walk. But also the organization, everything running to schedule, and an easy-to-understand program of events…. The atmosphere was amazing too because of all the above. Very relaxed and fun.” Joanne Tristam agrees: “This year was fab! Amazing venue, with great atmosphere, beach on site, and a brilliant surface to run on,” she says.
Republic of Ireland Team manager Diane Collie says that her team also had a great experience at the event. She says, “Everybody had a fantastic time. The WAO experience just keeps getting better and better every year, and this year’s experience will be very difficult to surpass. An amazing venue beside a fabulous beach, great accommodation at the venue, a super surface to run on, great judges, wonderful weather, a brilliant atmosphere throughout, superb organization…. And [it was] great to see so many of the top handlers there this year.”
Percival and Derrett are in the midst of planning the 2015 event, which be held at the National Hippic Center (KNHS) in Ermelo, Netherlands, on May 15-1. Derrett says, “Monica and I are constantly looking to move the event forward and have several ideas we would like to implement, from tweaking the rules to better technology that allows spectators and competitors to always know what’s going via their mobile devices. We have a great team of helpers around us and they all contribute to making the event what it is,” says Derrett.
WAO organizers are pleased to welcome CSJ as the main sponsor of the 2015, 2016, and 2017 WAO events. Derrett says, “We are thrilled that CSJ has joined up with the WAO to help build and enhance the event. As a company, CSJ has a passion as well as a history of helping to support all dog sports at various levels. We are glad they have chosen to support dog agility at an international level. It should be an exciting three years for the event as the WAO continues to grow and develop and become the ultimate agility world cup.”