His courses are known to be open, flowing, fast, challenging and most importantly safe for the dogs. Since the nomination as judge for the World Championship 2020 in Estonia is Jan Egil Eide on everyone’s lips. But the Norwegian figurehead is much more than just a world-class judge who knows how to keep up with the times. Vice World Champion, European Open Champion and Norwegian Champion are just a few of his sporting achievements. He is also considered next to the field as a real doer. In the interview with agilitynow.eu he talks about how and when he got to know about his election as AWC-judge and his feelings. We also take a look back at his sporting highlights and of course his great passion for judging.
agilitynow.eu: Outwardly, you are always known and seen as a calm, thoughtful and always cheerful person. Is there anything in the world that can really upset you?
Jan Egil Eide: As judge, I get upset to see unfair treatment of dogs. I don’t like handlers that gives up their run, blaming their dogs or verbal punishment in the ring.
agilitynow.eu: For many, including us, the election as World Championship judge was long overdue. How and when did you hear about your nomination for the World Championship 2020 last Monday? Were there already any discussions and inquiries in this direction before the official meeting of the FCI Agility Commission?
Jan Egil Eide: I was nominated also last year, when Toshi won the election. Regarding the voting process at the meeting this year I know nothing about it, except the fact I got most votes. I was home in bed when I got the result from the voting. It was a good start of this day.
agilitynow.eu Judging a World Championship is probably the biggest award and recognition that can happen to an agility judge. In a first reaction, you have spoken of a great dream that comes true. Now several days have passed since the announcement. Have you already realized the decision?
Jan Egil Eide: I have realized the decision yes, but I haven’t spent much time thinking about Estonia. There is still one year and it will be a year full of experiences and preparations.
agilitynow.eu Let’s talk a bit more about your activity as a judge. You have been working in that function since 2001. We can imagine, over all these years, consciously or unconsciously, that you collect ideas for a possible World Championship course during all your previous commitments. Do you already have concrete ideas or will you build up in Tallinn on a mix of proven sequences from past courses?
Jan Egil Eide: Not at all. I have no idea what I will design in Estonia. I always try my best to make good courses, as good as I am able to do. Hopefully I will be able to design something cool also for Estonia.
agilitynow.eu This leads me to another question. With the abundance of courses that you have drawn over the years, are there not moments when you simply miss the ideas? Or to put it on another way: How do you manage to create new ideas and courses over and over in this abundance of commitments as judge?
Jan Egil Eide: Sometimes courses comes easy, sometimes not. Sometimes I have to work a lot to make good courses. If I am not happy with my design, I just have to keep working until its good. I am a professional trainer and I build courses or sequences at home every week for students. In this way I create and design a lot and often it brings out ideas for courses also. If I am lost for ideas or creativity I try to be inspired from good course design from other judges.
agilitynow.eu While most of the courses are based on a mix of technical passages and lots of quick, flow spots that physically challenge the dogs and handlers, there are a few that complain about exactly this. With the reason that the focus of your courses is only on the elite. How do you deal with this, or generally with criticism?
Jan Egil Eide: I try my best every time and hope this is good enough. I try to learn from my experiences and I try to be a bit better every time I judge.
agilitynow.eu How great your passion for designing courses and judging is, is also shown by your course design training together with Tamas Trai and Petr Pupik. The first group started in August and due to the success the next course is already planned for next January. How exactly can we imagine this training for judges, and what makes you feel the excitement of sharing your knowledge and ideas?
Jan Egil Eide: I have passion for course design, and I am lucky to be in this environment with Petr and Tamas. We have a common interest for safe and creative design and hopefully we can inspire others.
agilitynow.eu Singapore, Sweden, Spain, Austria, Luxembourg and of course Norway are just a few of the places you’ve been judging in recent years. In the coming year, many more will be added as part of the preparation for the World Championship. How difficult is it to reconcile judging at this high level with your ambitions as an athlete? With Border Collie App, we will see you maybe in a few months again more on the other side of the course in the role of the athlete.
Jan Egil Eide: I love the fact that I can do various things inside agility. Seminars, judging, course design, organizing competitions, competing and I am also a member of Agility committee in Norwegian Kennel Club. I guess App have done less training than average 20-months old Agility dog, but we are enjoying our time and let us see what future will bring.
agilitynow.eu With your 26-year agility experience, you’re one of the old hand in the Agility community. What many do not even know anymore is that you can look back on a successful sporting career with Malinois Cirkus too. A second place at the 2008 World Championships in Helsinki, winner of the European Open 2010 and in addition titles at the Nordic Championships and some national titles to name just a few of them. How much of this gained experience can you use today, more than ten years later, with the Border Collie App or in your trainings and workshops? After all, the sport has developed very strong within this short time.
Jan Egil Eide: The sport is very different compared to 10 years ago. So the things we did then is not so relevant anymore. But I have some experience and I think this is useful in everything I do.
agilitynow.eu You were coach of the Norwegian national team during the last years. Even after that time, you stayed close to the team. Accordingly, you are still close to the action. How do you see the development of the last years in Norway? Ina Himle and Wii narrowly missed out on the gold medal last year, while Eli Beathe Saether and Zelda suffered the same fate at the 2016 World Championship in Spain following a dropped pole. As a small reparation followed a year later a bronze medal for Eli Beathe Saether. Until now the last medal for Norway on a World Championship.
Jan Egil Eide: I was trainer/helper for Team Norway for 2 seasons. The country is developing fast and I think our top teams are improving all the time. In Norway, we are very proud of Eli Beate and Ina. They have proved world-class in several occasions and inspires teams inside and outside Norway.
agilitynow.eu As a judge, you see and know several teams from amateur to professional handlers. What do you think makes a successful team?
Jan Egil Eide: Patience. Hard work and never give up, even if your dog are not natural agility talent. I believe in trying your best with the dog you have.
agilitynow.eu Of course, with a man of your experience, we do not want to miss asking your opinion about Agility development. Faster and bigger is the motto. How do you face this trend and where do you see the sport in a few years? Especially since you are very committed as judge into development.
Jan Egil Eide: I think Agility is much safer now compared to 10-15-20 years ago. I like this development and I like the focus on safety regarding obstacles and course design.
agilitynow.eu That means, that you are very often confronted with the topic of security and development. In recent years, there have been a number of innovations mainly due to safety, such as the rising frame less tire, the soft wall and the soft long jump, or the much lighter jumps. At the same time, the difficulty level of the courses and the speed are constantly increasing. Should in your opinion the judges focus more on this issue or is it ultimately up to the handlers to decide how much risk they are taking?
Jan Egil Eide: My biggest fear is that dogs would be injured in my course, because of my design. It is my responsibility to create safe courses. At the same time I think also handlers have a responsibility to have their dogs prepared for the level they are competing at.
agilitynow.eu You are known as a big fan of electronic contact zones. Last time you were allowed to test the system in Luxembourg at the national championships. Equipped with a transmitter on the wrist, which sends a vibration signal when the dog (or the handler…) touching the contact zone. What was your impression of working with that system?
Jan Egil Eide: I have tried it once and I liked it. I would be happy to have this more often.
agilitynow.eu Actually, the interview should have ended at this point. Due to the current situation in Norway with the unknown severe disease of dogs and the cancellation of the Norwegian Open 2019, we need to ask some more things about it. Especially because your little baby, the Norwegian Open, should have been held this year for the ninth time. How badly does the cancellation hurt so shortly before the start of the tournament?
Jan Egil Eide: This was out of our hands and due to the situation and circumstances it was not so hard decision to make. We will be back in 2020.
agilitynow.eu Immediately after the cancellation you published the first information for the Norwegian Open 2020. The tenth anniversary tournament should become even more spectacular and bigger than ever before. True to the motto, now more than ever. What can we look forward to, next to eight top international judges?
Jan Egil Eide: Amazing arena, fantastic atmosphere, great organization and top judges.
agilitynow.eu Finally, let us ask you a little question about the Norwegian Open. Did your little baby, the Norwegian Open, as we described the tournament earlier, develop in what you think was the right direction? Or has the tournament, which is one of the largest and most important in Europe, now reached a point where the potential is exhausted?
Jan Egil Eide: Norwegian Open is organized by Hokksund Hundeklubb. I am in organizing committee every year together with a very good group of people. Our ambitions when we started was to create a cool competition. We didn’t know anything about the outcome, luckily. We are incredible proud of Norwegian Open. We have tried every year to make even better competition than previous year, and I think we understand in some way what competitors like. I am sure we will see a fantastic Norwegian Open 2020.