What do Lindsey Dicken, Victor Rosado, Mackensie Murphy, Michelle Breen, Cat Opson, and Cheryl Purcell have in common with Michael Phelps?
Well, while this U.S.A. team may not be breaking records in the 100-fly, they are winning gold medals . . . in grooming! On Oct. 1, the AKC-sponsored U.S.A. team participated in the World Team Grooming Championship competition. The competition is held every two years. This year, 20 countries competed for the title of World Champion.
And Team U.S.A. came out on top.
The competition was held in Belgium and the U.S.A. team, comprised of five members and a team captain, traveled to compete against 20 other countries. "It's like the Westminster of grooming," team captain Cheryl Purcell told AKC.org.
And it isn't a simple event. The team members compete in four categories: purebred/scissoring, hand stripping, Spaniels/Setters, and Poodles. One team member from each country competes in each category. Three judges score and rank them no. 1 - no. 20. The groomer with the highest score wins his or her respective class. Then the team with the highest combined score becomes the World Team Grooming Champion.
This year, the U.S. team consisted of Lindsey Dicken, competing on a Bichon Frise in scissoring; Victor Rosado, competing on a Scottish Terrier in hand stripping; Mackensie Murphy, competing on a Cocker Spaniel in Spaniels/Setters; and Michelle Breen competing on a Standard Poodle in Poodles. Cat Opson served as team alternate.
Ultimately, the U.S. team scored a total of 215 points out of 300 to take the gold.
How did the team prepare for such a big competition? "Preparation starts a year or more in advance," Dicken told AKC.org. "As a team, we decide which competitors will be competing in each class, and then the hunt for a dog begins."
Sometimes the team members choose a dog that they own, sometimes they reach out to breeders to borrow a dog of excellent quality. After they decide on a dog, they condition the dog, get to know his structure, and practice setting the perfect trim.
As team captain, Purcell is responsible for helping her team prepare for the competition and must also arrange the logistics: flights, hotels, rental cars, and U.S. Department of Agriculture health certificates for all of the dogs.
A lot goes into preparation, behind the scenes and on the day of competition. And there's no doubt that all of the team's hard work paid off.
What was it like for the U.S. team to win big this year?
"It was so special," said Purcell. "Last year, we lost the gold to Italy, and as they counted down it came down to the U.S.A. and Italy again. When we heard Italy called second, I just broke down in tears for my team and all the hard work they put in. I was so proud to be a part of that moment," she said.
The other team members agreed.
"This team deserved this gold win," said Murphy. "We are all extremely strong and determined in our craft. I don't think there's been a team like us before. We couldn't be happier," she said.
"It truly [was] a team effort," said Michelle Breen.
For team member Victor Rosado, the win was special in more ways than one. Rosado is from Puerto Rico, and right before leaving for Belgium, he experienced the horrible effects of Hurricane Maria. In the wake of the hurricane, Rosado lost all communication to his team, and the airport was closed. He drove through the island with his dog, trying to find a phone signal and hoping to find a flight. Due to the kindness and hard work of his team and others, he managed to find a flight to bring him and his dog to Belgium.
"It's been a dream come true," he said. "One of the greatest highlights of my career."
The Importance of Grooming
In talking to the gold medal winning team, we asked the members (as they're obviously the experts) what they thought the importance of grooming was. The response was pretty much unanimous: it's all about the dogs.
"Grooming is a necessary part of taking proper care of your pet," said Opson. "Whether your dog is groomed at home or by a professional, every dog needs grooming."
Grooming is an important part of your dog's physical health, and his mental health, as well. As Dicken says, "to see [a dog] happy and prancing out the door is the best reward."
Big congratulations to Team U.S.A. on its gold medal win!