Whoosh and its over!
It's been a 'bit of a year' to say the least! We have had many ups and downs - the terrible atrocities of the terrorists attack on the World Trade Centre - the disastrous effects of the foot and mouth crisis on our rural community.
The agility community was affected too. Foot and mouth, threatening to wipe out all the shows let alone the Pedigree qualifying events. But we've had our good times. Agility took on championship status and our very first Agility champions were crowned - Lesley Olden and Ag. Ch. Waggerland Whoosh of Nedlo.
The first ever-British dogs competed at the World Championships in Portugal. We didn't bring any trophies home but it was a fantastic experience, one from which we have all learnt and hopefully it won't be very long before a British team stands on top of the podium.
However, now it's time for some Christmas cheer and thankfully the year finished as we'd all hoped, with the highlight of the British agility calendar, the Pedigree Agility Stakes finals. The Olympia International Show Jumping Championships now in its 30th year continues to provide thrills and spills for all visitors whatever their affiliation.
There are horses, stunt men, pageants, parades - you name it Olympia shows it. You know when the agility has started though- the deafening noise of ten thousand excited spectators clapping, shouting and stamping their feet can be heard throughout the Grand Hall whenever it is scheduled.
It is now firmly established as one of the highlights of the show. It gets the adrenalin pumping whether competing or watching - you get quite a feeling of pride when you realise just what an amazing effect our humble sport has as it brings Olympia to its feet year after year. Kathrin Tasker had the onerous task of judging this year's championship.
As Dave Ray stated in his pre Olympia report, Kathrin has been busy designing courses for months. Her hard work obviously paid off, she did an excellent job - extremely professional and being one of the countries top handlers herself, her empathy with the handlers was very much appreciated.
Lee Gibson and Natasha Wise took the first bit of crystal in Wednesday afternoon's Pedigree Pairs Relay. Another pair who has worked up through the KCJO gave it their all and their performance on this dull damp Wednesday afternoon put a smile on everyone's face. Thursday began with the Pedigree Speed Jumping Grand Prix.
Another foot stomping event and one of the favourites for this year's title - Alan Bray and Tigger taking top honours. Could they keep it up?
Pedigree ABC All Stars Final
Kicking off the first final of 2001 was the extremely popular Pedigree ABC All Stars Agility championship. With ten different breeds of dog strutting their stuff there was a dog for everyone to relate to.
Having watched the ABC finals at Newton Heath from which the Olympia competitors are chosen, I knew we were in for a treat and believe you me we weren't disappointed. It was difficult for the handlers to make themselves heard above the hula boo - it was more a case of just point and go with a bit of a prayer on the contacts!
Running fourth were Geoff Hollis and his fantastic Terv. Baudwin Cappermore. They put in a storming clear round which although many tried, was not to be beaten. This is Geoff's first dog and has taken him from Novice to Senior in a year. Although just three years old he's appeared in many finals including two Pedigree Classics, two Pedigree semis, ABC and for the past two years led the point's leader board in two categories!
Their run was a classic - fast, on the edge, precise and exciting, just the right mixture to raise the roof off the grand hall. And raise it - it did. The pressure was now on - every one gave there all and as ever the odd error began to appear.
Two to go and still only one clear round. Having made the long journey from Cornwall, this year's runners up place was awarded to a delighted Dave Strachan and his Whippet - The Grey Lady. They didn't have the speed of the Tervueren, but were foot perfect and with no other clear rounds in sight it was good enough.
Ray Ellerton and his lurcher, Lightning Razz were the 2001 winners and running last we knew it wasn't over yet! It was close, very close and this Lurcher can hold his own in any company but try as he might and with the crowd at fever pitch, Ray couldn't keep Razz on the A frame and up went Kathrin's hand.
It couldn't have been more dramatic if you'd written the script. The crowd gave all the finalists a superb reception as they took a spot lit lap of honour - a fantastic start to this years Olympia agility schedule.
1 Geoff Hollis, Baudwin Cappermore - c, 35.48
2 Dave Strachan, The Grey Lady - c, 44.01
3 Ray Ellerton, Lightning Razz - 5, 35.00
4 Claudine L Barr, Cardine Betty - 5, 39.10
5 Jo Sermon, Jo's Jester - 5, 40, 15
6 Kerry Abbott, Decoyman't Piper Pirate - 5, 40.71
7 Diane Griffin, Delark Lucky Chase - 5, 43.30
8 Colin Fenton, Millington's Mac - 5, 44.11
9 Kate Griffiths, Enigma of Aur - 10, 45.49
10 Jim Gregson, Shearons Vana - 2045.11
Pedigree Schmackos Mini-Agility Stakes Final
Friday and the mini fraternity take centre stage. Again, extremely popular with the Olympia audience they continue to provide their own brand of magic. The afternoon's pairs relay set the scene with Mary Ray - Myndoc Simply Teena and Lisa Bailey - Nora Batty accepting the crystal.
But the day wasn't over for these two by a long chalk! The afternoon passed in a flash and before long the equipment tractor entered the Grand Hall once again. Looking back at the tunnel - ten nervous handlers with some extremely excitable dogs awaited their fate! Kathrin took her position and the dreaded bell rang...
The surface this year was much firmer enabling both handler and dog a greater turn of speed and with Kathrin's course lending itself to the speed merchants we had one of the best mini finals ever witnessed. First up were Sharon Brewster and her Border Terrier - Bridesdale Lady.
Running first is never easy but Sharon is no stranger to these finals and using all her experience guided Lady round clear to rapturous applause. Following on were KCJO members Laura Ison and her poodle, Merrymorn Silver Bubbles.
Having watched them qualify in great style at Birmingham this young lady belying all her young gave an excellent performance at her first ever Olympia. Five faults on the seesaw their only fault. Well done Laura.
The second Border Terrier to grace the Olympia stage was Keith Leslie's Bouncing Bertie. I'm not sure what the spectators were on, but I wouldn't mind some! I have never heard noise like it. Bertie liked it too. It was one of the best rounds I've ever seen this pair do and put them into the lead - fantastic! Just when we thought it couldn't get any better up stepped Peter Stephens.
I've watched many Cavaliers over the years and this one certainly ranks as one of the best. Their run home brought the house down - Mike Tucker commentating was almost lost for words! Clear 36.76 and the lead changed hands yet again. Clive Foden, one of the great characters of mini agility with his Poodle Carolrose Stedey Eddie again gave a fine performance.
The run home however, due I'm sure to Clive's knee problem, was a bit of challenge and try as he might they couldn't quite manage the speed of the previous competitor. I've written many times about our next competitor and I know Lisa will forgive me for saying; it usually ends with an "if only". An excellent pairs win with Mary Ray this afternoon; could they keep it altogether for the big one?
Well Lisa - no ifs or buts - what you pulled off on the night was fantastic. I have never seen a round like it, the speed and precision was unbelievable. The place erupted as you came into the home straight - I'm sure it was pure adrenalin both you and Peggy were running on. As you crossed the line we checked the clock - you'd knocked nearly three seconds off the lead!
It was one of those runs we all dream of and for once Lisa your dream came true. By now it was plain that speed was the key, the faults were few and the spectators euphoric. Nicola Williams and her Poodle My Haven's Fancy Footways fresh from the World Show as members of the British Mini Agility team, were well aware of what was needed to perform in major competition.
But for the third year in a row they were unable to secure a clear round when Ozzie left the dog walk early. Carol Hughes and Valgray's Mini Mouse are the current Pedigree Mini Classic title owners, but lady luck eluded them tonight when Choci failed to pass the halfway point on the seesaw and suffered elimination. Never mind Carol, this cracking little dog owes you nothing and apart from that little "hiccup" gave you a super run.
Having spent the last few days with our next handler I knew she wasn't particularly confident - she never is, contrary to popular belief! But I've been watching you Mary Ray over the last few months and your relationship with Shirley Turner's brilliant Sheltie Myndoc Simply Tina gets better and better and the red rosettes are beginning to appear.
She's a credit to your ability to understand and create a partnership that others can only marvel at. They had an excellent pairs win earlier in the day accompanied by the current leader. Could they snatch the lead?
They set off at a blistering pace and their dog walk and turn from the collapsible tunnel were astonishing. This tiny little dog held nothing back and gave her all tonight; she could not have gone any faster and although two hundredths slower than your pairs partner, I know you were thrilled to bits with the result.
If anyone could change the result the last and final pairing of Jayne Bray and the well-known Poodle, Harvest Geld for Aprika were the ones. We knew they had the speed and Olympia cheered every obstacle and turn. Unfortunately an early exit from the dog walk cost them dear.
Their time was the fastest of the night but in this company a clear round would only suffice. Olympia was still buzzing when the presentations took place and Lisa and Peggy were crowned this year's champions.
The lap of honour was once again an ear-splitting event and the champagne reception that followed was a fitting end to what we all agreed had been the most exciting Pedigree Schmackos Mini agility stakes finals ever.
We were delighted that Bill King joined us from Pedigree to thank everyone for providing such an amazing spectacle. We wished everyone a Merry Xmas and before long our thoughts were already on the dreaded Saturday morning semi . . . !
1 Lisa Bailey, Nora Batty, Cross - C, 34.01
2 Mary Ray, Myndoc Simply Teena, Shetland Sheepdog - C, 34.21
3 Peter Stephens, Pelynka Jetsetter, C.K.C.S. - C, 36.76
4 Keith Leslie, Bouncing Bertie, Border Terrier - C, 36.96
5 Clive Foden, Carolrose Stedey Eddie, Poodle - C, 38.96
6 Sharon Brewster, Bridesdale Lady, Border Terrier. - C, 42.6
7 Jayne Bray, Harvest Geld for Aprika, Poodle - 5, 33.84
8 Nicola Williams, My Haven's Fancy Footways, Poodle - 5, 37.51
9 Laura Ison, Merry Morn Silver Bubbles, Poodle - 5, 39.27
10 Carol Hughes, Valgrays Mini Mouse, Cross - E
Pedigree Agility Stakes Finals Semi Final
Oh that Saturday morning - it's a killer! When we left Olympia Friday night the place was still bustling - when we entered the Grand Hall on Saturday morning we were greeted with a deathly silence.
The faces on the finalists were ashen, their grooms looked even worse. For some it was there first time, for many - they put themselves through this torture year after year - lucky devils! The dreaded bell rang and Denise Wilkinson had the "envious" task of running first. Having won Thursday's Speed Knockout in great style all she needed was the control on the contacts and a place in the final would be theirs.
First time at Olympia but on form this year and one of the favourites for this final. They did not disappoint - a text book round at breakneck speed. Clear in 30.98 and into the lead. It was not beaten. Greg Derrett and JC followed but a brick out of the wall put paid to their chances.
A handler that always makes me nervous just watching them warm up gave us our next clear round - Stuart Harmes and Trelogan Trim. With Stuart's "dulcet" tones ringing throughout the great hall, Trim came storming home in a time of 31.75. Eleanor Balchin had a few communication problems with her dog and suffered the first elimination.
Stuart Carter sporting a very fetching red and yellow hair style gave us our third clear round but at this standard of competition his time would not be quick enough. Another first timer joining Denise was Traci Gaunt and Wenya Ready Trevor.
Traci looked completely "gob smacked" when Mike Tucker announced they'd gone into 2nd place with their clear round of 31.21. She'd convinced herself that Trevor had rolled a pole! Blair Willis brought in as a late replacement for Neil Bowery who tragically lost his dog with stomach torsion last week had the best run of his life. With a recorded time of 31.86 would it be enough?
Sharon Eldridge must have thought her run of 31.99 with Lunarlite Midnight Eclipse would be, but again in this company it unfortunately awarded them the dreaded ninth place. Don Cooper and Patie Jary followed and both picked up eliminations.
Gwyn Roberts who had his judging appointment cut short last year was thrilled to be here competing. With his daughter Sian, thankfully now ok and cheering her Dad all the way round, he guided Tag - Moonlight Mystic Master (perhaps followed would be a better description), to another final with a brilliant round in 31.36.
Pat Brown who usually pulls out all the stops pushed a bit too hard and picked up elimination. Sally Prevett although clear didn't quite have the speed and Jo Rhodes like her British Team mate Greg, took a brick out of the wall.
Another of this years favourites, Alan Bray and Lunarlite Selenas Tiger at Upanova and agility's first champions Lesley Olden and Ag Ch Waggerland Whoosh of Nedlo made it all look very easy, to secure their final places, recording times of 31.21 and 31.81 respectively. Terry Insull last year's winners were expected once again to produce the goods. Madge however, uncharacteristically, dropped a leg on a turn and rolled a pole.
Lee Gibson yet another first timer, and still in the KCJO showed all the "old timers" the way to go when he joined them in the final. Clear 31.86. Graeme MacGregor and Trim went clear but again out of time as was Bill Chuter and Todd who also picked up five on the dog walk. Mary Ray who last night had Olympia screaming for more was very focussed as Kizzie stormed around this very fast course.
However, Kizzie took a bit of a detour and although clear it cost them dear. Clear 33.01. Sue Frazier a past winner and Julie Person both had good clears but again just off the pace. Another pair on form this season was Adam Froggatt and his speckled BC Astra Dee.
The time was good 31.41, but a slip off the down contact of the dog walk put paid to their chances. Alan Stiff, Nancy Hudson and Bridget Fletcher again all with good times unfortunately picked up faults. Natasha Wise and Crazymaesy's Flipping Ada was the only other clear round of the competition but again not quick enough to make the final cut.
Charlie Wyant our penultimate semi finalists picked up five for a knockdown and last but not least Sarah-Jayne and Taffy got in a bit of a pickle and were eliminated. We now had our eight finalists for 2001 - it would be a long afternoon!
During that afternoon, the Pedigree Agility Stakes Pairs Relay provided the Olympia crowds with another exciting display - Lesley Olden and Sharon Elderidge running out eventual winners.
1 Denise Wilkinson, Rudyard by Daley Tadge - C, 30.98
2 Traci Gaunt, Wenya Ready Trevor - C, 31.21
3 Alan Bray, Lunarlite Selenas Tiger - C, 31.21
4 Gwyn Roberts, Moonlight Mystic Master - C, 31.36
5 Stuart Harmes, Trelogan Trim - C, 31.75
6 Lesley Olden, Ag Ch Waggerland Whoosh of Nedlo - C, 31.81
7 Lee Gibson, Rory Bilbatch Ratchup - C, 31.86
8 Blair Willis, Fells Magic Laser - C, 31.86
There wasn't a seat to be had in the house. The whole of Olympia was ready to take part in agility's most prestigious final. It was good to see that the majority of the 30 semi finalists had stayed behind to cheer on the eight finalists.
Kathrin had set a course that required careful handling, and once the 10,000 excited vocal chords were at full stretch, it proved to be a bit of a challenge. But it was a good final - a great one in fact and once again had Olympia euphoric. Running in reverse order from the mornings placing, Blair Willis started the ball rolling.
They started off at a cracking pace and just got faster and faster. Blair needed a strong command to turn the dog after the tunnel but the crowd were hysterical. The command was lost and unfortunately the dog went straight on and was eliminated for jumping fence one again. A big event for such a young man, but what a fantastic achievement.
Although Lee, try as he might couldn't keep Rory on the contacts, they did themselves proud and I'm sure we'll see them at many more finals before much longer. 15F - 34.85 I'm not sure what to write about our next pairing, that hasn't been written before. You can't take anything away from them.
This little dog is so very clever and thoroughly deserves not only her championship title but this one too. Lesley Olden and Ag Ch Waggerland Whoosh of Nedlo produced a faultless performance - Loobie was flying and gave Lesley her all, and for the second time the title was theirs. This is Lesley's FOURTH title win here, once with Midge , once with Katie (mini), twice now with Loobie and on the evening's showing Lesley, Loobie could well be the first to make it three.
Clear 35.57 Stuart Harmes was not going to hand this to Lesley on a plate. Stuart told me in the morning he wished he'd got Noggin with him to tackle these big courses. Well Stuart, Trim managed it very well thank you. He loved Olympia and raised his game - it was oh so close - the place was going wild as you ran for home - he couldn't give any more and was just eight hundredths of a second slower than Loobie. It was brilliant - clear 35.65 Next up were Gwyn Roberts and Moonlight Mystic Master.
The both set off like a bolt out of a gun. Unbelievably this Bolton dog is nine years old and is running better now than ever. The noise from the crowd was ear-splitting as Tag powered his way round this huge arena. He was up on the time at the halfway point but up went Kathrin's hand as they left the dog walk.
They were not put off, the crowd were loving it and so were Gwyn and Tag. They finished in great style in a time of 35.06. Oh so near! I have never seen a round like the next one! Alan - oh Alan. This fan tastic little Bolton was unbelievable. It took your breath away - she was so fast, so tight, so, so.. I've run out of superlatives.
It was theirs - they were three seconds up on clock as they came into the final run of obstacles. Alan told me he was a bit worried about turning her after the tunnel and he gave her the command a fraction too soon. To the groans of us all she turned too quick picking up a refusal, got behind Alan and jumped the wrong jump - eliminated! We couldn't believe it - Alan then fell over. It was a nightmare happening in front of us.
I take my hat off to you though Alan. He picked himself up, finished the course with a big smile cuddling his little dog. Hard luck, she's only young and if there's any justice in this world Alan she'll do it soon. Traci Gaunt, another first timer was still in shock on qualifying for these championships, let alone the final!
It wasn't to be a fairytale ending as they suffered elimination, but again you could see they both enjoyed every moment of this fantastic experience. Last to go and these years' odds on favourites - Denise Wilkinson and Rudyard by Daley Tadge. Olympia was unusually quiet - the tension was unbelievable. This partnership hadn't put a foot wrong winning both their fun run and the morning's semi.
The atmosphere changed as they turned for home. The place erupted and in true Olympia fashion they kept us on the edge of our seats right until the very end. As Tadge left the see-saw she all but tripped Denise over. We could hardly bear to look - how Denise kept her balance we'll never know. All eyes again were on the clock - it was so close and for a while we couldn't work out what the electronic clock was telling us.
Mike Tucker soon put paid to that as Lesley was announced the victor. Again so near - it was a good try Denise and but for the hiccup at the seesaw - who knows? We all retired for the traditional Pedigree champagne reception where Tom Grant from Pedigree congratulated Lesley Olden and Ag Ch Waggerland Whoosh of Nedlo on their fantastic achievement He re-iterated Pedigrees commitment to the sport and thanked everyone for providing such a fantastic display.
We in return are indebted to Pedigree for continuing to support this most prestigious event. It gets more professional, more popular and exciting year on year. This year- round competition promotes agility at its highest level and without this level of sponsorship; agility would be a much poorer place. Did I hear somebody mention Ribble!!
1 Lesley Olden, Ag ChWaggerland Whoosh of Nedlo - C, 35.57
2 Denise Wilkinson, Rudyard by Daley Tadge - C, 35.6
3 Stuart Harmes, Trelogan Trim - C, 35.65
4 Gwyn Roberts, Moonlight Mystic Master - 5, 35.06
5 Lee Gibson, Rory Bilbatch Ratchup - 15, 34.85
6 Traci Gaunt, Wenya Ready Trevor - E 6 Alan Bray, Lunarlite Selenas Tiger- E6 Blair Willis, Fells Magic Laser - E
Pedigree Agility Stakes European Agility Cup
Pedigree welcomed its European friends to Olympia for the second year. The best dogs from the corresponding countries United Kingdom, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Austria are invited to compete at this most prestigious event. It is an honour to be invited and the pressure and nerves once again returned to the collecting ring.
The pressure was not only on the individual handler but the added responsibility of representing your country. To ease the nerves their first run at Olympia was a knockout. The Welsh Wizard - Stuart Harmes and Noggin ran out eventual winners with Lars Bang and Abby (Denmark) runners up.
Kathrin had set a sympathetic course, which was very fast, but as anyone will tell you that's run here - anything can happen! Wales began the proceedings and with Stuart Harmes and Noggin as their representative they stood a very good chance. But once again Olympia surprised us all when Noggin missed the down contact on the dog walk.
I don't know how many times I've seen Noggin compete and |I don't think I've ever seen him miss a contact! Stuart then lost a bit of concentration and picked up another five for a refusal -even with all the messing about the time was still good. 10f - 34.95 Belgium's representative Lars Bang and Abby are no strangers to our waters.
One of the first ever Europeans to compete in England at Rugby show a couple of years ago. Tonight however was not to be, when they had a few problems with contacts and picked up 15f . Andreas Mayer was up next with Thora - a super looking Border Collie representing Austria. A slight mix up in "communication" through the jump chicane cost them five faults but again a very fast time. 5f in 34.94.
The only veteran handler in the competition represented Scotland. What they may have lacked in youth they certainly didn't lack in style and ability. Phillip Paterson and his Border Collie Stonegrove Jack had Scotland on their feet.
They had a superb run and stormed into the lead with a clear round in 34.40. I haven't seen this pair before but what a credit to your country. A smashing handler; a very talented dog - well done! All the way from Belfast, but well known to most of us here was Michael McCartney and his handsome red and white - Anndale Ace Ventura.
One of the best runs I've seen this pair do but Michael was very cautious with the contacts which cost him valuable time. They had a super run home and their time of 36.45 put Ireland into second place. Ireland weren't in second place for long however, when up stepped Ton Van Der Laar and Kayleigh's Dutch Rex from Holland.
Super contacts and good control rewarded this pair with our third clear round of the evening in a time of 36.89 pushing Michael and Ace down to third. After the euphoria of last night, Lesley Olden and Ag Ch Waggerland Whoosh of Nedlo were in confident mood. However agility is a great leveller and a refusal at the A frame put paid to a double "whammy" for the English Pair. 5f in 36.61.
The current World Champions from Portugal 2001 are Jenny Damm and Lotus. Pedigree were delighted to welcome them here tonight. Olympia was "singing" once again and you couldn't hear yourself think, let alone the dog hear a command.
Try as she might Jenny couldn't get Lotus to go down the final line as the dog kept turning to wait for her. Valuable seconds were lost and although clear, their time of 36.45 was only good enough for third place. Again you couldn't have written the script better yourself. The final pair, representing Belgium was Sally Andrews and her Border Collie - Daley. This 5-year-old collie had Olympia to its feet.
They set off like a bullet from a gun - superb contacts, tight turns, speed and control. They approached the final line still flat out. With Sally in hot pursuit, Daley finished the course well ahead of his handler in an unbelievable 33.50 seconds and with it this year's Pedigree European Agility Cup Title.
Olympia responded as it had done all week with a foot-stomping, ear-splitting ovation. It was a fitting end to what we all agreed, had been a superb series of Pedigree 2001 finals.
1 Sally Udine Daley, Belgium - 33.50
2 Phillip Paterson, Stonegrove Jumping Jack, Scotland - 34.40
3 Jenny Damm, Lotus, Sweden- 36.45
4 Ton Van Der Laar, Kayleigh's Dutch Rex, Holland- 36.89
5 Michael McCartney, Anndale Ace Ventura, N Ireland - 37.91
6 Adreas Mayer, Thora, Austria - 5, 34.94
7 Lesley Olden, Ag Ch Waggerland Whoosh of Nedlo, England - 5, 36.61
8 Stuart Harmes, Trelogan Trim, Wales - 10, 34.95
9 Lars Bang, Abby, Denmark -15, 39.88