Agility high time part 1: European Open 2014, Hungary

In our first competition season with Jet after 11 months since our first competition we arrived to our first really big milestone in agility. July 2014, the European Open and and Border Collie Classic. These two according to my understanding the second and third biggest agility event following the FCI Agility World Championship. Hundreds of the best teams from all around the world came so opportunity cannot be greater to experience where about we are in the competitive agility sport.

We were lucky enough this year because we didn’t have to travel much to reach the locations of the these competitions, as EO was hosted by my country in Kaposvar, and the BCC on the following weekend was in Slovakia, again, two hours drive from Budapest. Apart from enjoying the advantage of  short traveling, it was a great feeling to participate in such a big event – first in our life – in my home land.

We arrived on Wednesday to the place of the EO, after settling down we had the team training on Thursday early morning. I felt quite unsure , Jet was super happy – therefore fast as hell – this together resulted a pretty chaotic training session that made me feel for urgent need for very fast  improvement on my mindset.  And here comes the importance how fantastic is for me that Jet  so reliably brings her part into the game.  She is always, always so highly driven but still clear in head in every competitions that  she makes me feel : with her everything is possible. I can rely on her 100% and I know if I can put my half into the runs… well… time will tell if I could… 😉

So, I managed to pull myself together a bit for Thursday, and I stepped on to the course very calm and motivated, ready to run for my team. We started with the jumping 5707974_origtomiTJset by Tamas Tráj. It was – as one could have presume – fast and technical course in the same time. I would say it was clear-out parcour, nice lines for the dogs, challenging sequences for the handlers, no exaggeration, no signs that Tomi (as we call him) had any over complication in mind just because it was THE EO. I really liked it and went to the start line knowing that I must run fast, but we can make it. And it happened, we ran fast and made it 🙂 Surely there were moments of uncertainty but had a clean run and finished 27th. I was very happy to start the EO like that.

In the afternoon we ran an agility course set by Peter Feer.  As much I didn’t feel any excess about the jumping in the morning, this feeling turned upside down with the agility course. One can argue with me but I think bad angles and obstacles “piled on each other”  aiming to set up “very difficult obstacle discrimination” is, in my mind,  not the way of making challenging courses. Peter is a nice person but I never happened to like his set ups – and this hadn’t change on the EO. But in spite of all  we ran clean although  me,  Jet and the course were on completely different planet I can tell. I could solve pretty difficult sequences quite well and on the other side I was lost for seconds on other parts of the course. Well, after all I was pleased , we made two clean runs which is very important especially talking about team qualification. Sadly enough my sweet little team-mates could not join me with running clean so we had to miss the team finals on Sunday. I was a bit disappointed as they are all very 2757120_origFeertalented girls with fantastic dogs and I really wanted to have the experience with them running the team relay in the final. That is so much fun to run and I was sad that we had to miss that out.

Then Saturday came along with the individual qualification runs. It is not a secret, I went to the EO setting the goal for myself to be qualified to the finals. It means in that in the individual runs we should have been placed in the best 25 teams in either runs. This was a big goal for sure, considering that more than 370 large teams competed.  My general rule when setting goals for the competition is being in the top 10%. If this happens, I am very happy. In the EO placing within the best 25 teams was a bit higher expectation, but come on, it was the EO, where should I have set higher goals if not there 🙂

The day started with a disastrous jumping ended in Dis (Disqualification). It was not at all a very reassuring start of the day, of course. Looking back what happened… I certainly didn’t arrive to the morning course-walk in my full potential. After the course walking  I just stood besides the jumping course watching the first competitors working. I was there looking at them, and literally didn’t understand what course they ran. Long in short, I walked the course an a wrong way, I missed out one curve completely. OK I thought, it is not a disaster, I see what the course was, been warming up myself, then Jet, I went through the course visualizing it about thousand times. Then go , one-two-three-four-five… Baaaaang, in no time Jet ended in the wrong tunnel entry after the long jump. Fffff…….. Well, there’s no surprise, I really did everything for this DIS. If anyone ever writes a book with the title ‘mistakes to be avoided in an agility competition – with special focus on top events’ or ‘Good run starts at the good course walk’ I could be brought in as a greatest example. Bahh… I was soooo upset with me being this stupid. But it happened , life goes on, and the line resembles in my ears “Sometimes you win sometimes you learn”. This was “sometimes you learn” situation 🙂 About Veronika’s course. Yeah, it was lovely as she is herself.6170527_origVErcsi Clever, smooth, challenging. And I was so pissed of for not being able to run it. 🙂 (I had been running her courses a few times, and could not make one clean so far. I thought on the EO we would make it. Noppp. )

After this morning, I didn’t have too much time to think of what had happened, as soon I had to go on and start preparing for my last chance to run into the final. This was not easy, because the agility course set by Rolli Shields seemed a lot more complicated – more difficult? – than the jumping. The statistics sais it was actually quite challenging as all together 159 teams could complete the course and out of them were 51 clean run. I saw several top handlers being disqualified and thought that from one side we have a chance to get a good placement – with a clean run of course – on the other side I thought it was a very difficult course. We made a clean, very nervous, therefore really moderate run, ending up on the 35th place overall. 8283873_origrolliAt least we made it and I was truly happy for that, but we could not qualify into the final…well, what to say, that didn’t make me very happy.  If I look back on that course , the only one point I see difficult is around the see-saw – and again have the feeling that it is not a very nice solution of putting challenge into a course. On the up-side of the see-saw was the dog walk , on the down-side of it was the A-frame set on the angle and distance that it was nearly impossible to  avoid and not to go off course. I personally don’t think this is very elegant way of course design, but we run what is given, of course.

All in all it was a great competition, I am happy with our performance. Out of four runs we had 3 clean, two times in the best 10% teams and 2 times as the best Hungarian Large team. I do think this is something to be proud of.  If there is any conclusion I would tell 1) course walking, course walking, course walking 2) don’t make a judgement of a course based on others performance – event if they are top handlers.

Congrats for my Hungarian team mates who made it to the final and had a very nice run. They were fantastic.