May 15th, 1998

Nine Champions Create A Champion
Part 1 of 5

by Bob Kinney

What follows is the greatest undertaking I have ever tackled at one time. I interviewed William Geerts, Belgium; Tony Melucci, Rhode Island, U.S.A.; August Daelemans, Belgium; Horst Hackemer, Wisconsin, U.S.A.; Hans Eijerkamp, Holland; Gary Squibb, England; Campbell Strange, Texas, U.S.A.; and Piet Manders, Holland.

Each a Champion competitor in his area and each a contributor to the excellence of the sport. The assignment was to take a four week old baby (approximately weaning age) and cover every aspect of its handling, training, and education through YB year, Yearling year, and Two Year Old year. In some cases, we deviated from one bird to the entire round in that age group out of necessity, but I am sure what follows will be first of great interest and secondly of educational value. I was surprised at the similarities, and at the differences. One of the great values of this piece of work is the availability of side by side comparison. I do not believe any of these gentlemen would tell you that their system is the only road to success. I do believe they would tell you that having a system and sticking to it is essential.

I have already been asked permission to publish this in the English press, the Belgium press, and two Holland publications. I am flattered and consented for the comparative value is beneficial to all flyers.

The names should be well-known by each of you. Regardless of anything you may have heard to one affect or another, each is indeed a Champion flyer. A simple fact of our sport is jealousy, a common item that top level accomplishment, in any form, seems to make flare up. I won't bore you with the Championships won, Average Speed wins, Special race accomplishments of the nine. I will try to give you a one line impression. Hopefully fair as some I'd just met, but after five hours of interviews certain things come through.

Hans Eijerkamp: For all his success, he is an intelligent, modest, hard working individual - in love with his pigeons.

Gary Squibb: Soft spoken, maybe ruthless in his demand for excellence, and not quite as self- confident in his success as he kept secrets on his feed program. He took ribbing from the other panel members well.

Tony Melucci: Simplicity of life and the birds - an honest individual with the courage to say what he thinks.

Campbell Strange: Totally dedicated, not just to flying and breeding superior birds, but dedicated to assisting and improving the sport whenever he can.

Piet Manders: A fine, gentle individual dedicated to his family and his birds.

Horst Hackemer: Integrity, intelligence, a touch of negativism that occasionally creeps out, but an overall positive influence on all who come in contact with him.

William Geerts: He's come along way in life and enjoys the respect he has earned.

August Daelemans: Very smooth and very pleasant, maybe a touch too much so. Extremely capable individual.

Tom Fahmie: A combination of self-assured and yet a modest honesty that creates a feeling of trust.

My special thanks to August Daelemans, Horst Hackemer, and Frank Dokman for translating.

Q. Gentlemen, what is the level of competition in your province and area in which these members compete?

August Daelemans: 17,500 members in a 30 mile deep area.

Horst Hackemer: 100 members in a 50 mile deep area.

Campbell Strange: 125 members in a 50 mile deep area.

Tony Melucci: had not joined us yet.

Gary Squibb: 2,000 members in a 50 mile deep area.

Tom Fahmie: 400 members in a 40 mile deep area.

Hans Eijerkamp: 8,000 members in 40 mile deep area.

William Geerts: 17,500 members in a 30 mile deep area.

Piet Manders: 13.000 member in a 70 mile deep area.

Editor's Note: We used the province as it compares in area to most of our combines.

Q. Would each country explain how Championships are determined.

Holland: In the Federation of 500 members, you must pick your two birds, plus you get 1 point credit for your first two birds on the race. Therefore, you have the potential of 4 points per race. However, on the Nationals against 55,000 members, it is just your two pick birds. In specialty races, you get 4 nominated birds and 4 unnominated birds. Your success is gauged by the total and the Kingship is the prize.

England: There are 3 categories. Up to 250 miles, 250 to 450 miles, and 450 miles and over. The problem is this is sent to the Union and traditionally it's who is in favor gets the Union Awards. It is an unfair, unsportsman award system.

United States: At combine level it is a 2 pick bird system. At National Union level, it is cumulative points on a set system that can be earned by birds and lofts. Such awards are Registered Champions and Hall of Fame for the birds and President's Cup for loft performance.

Belgium: The average prize system to 1 for 10, but counts on races over 200 miles only. It takes two years for the National Award and each bird has 26 opportunities to score. The birds with the most points represent Belgium in the Olympiad. Birds that have 16-19 points are what traditionally represent Belgium out of a potential 26 opportunities. Obviously a bird may not get to, in fact, go to all 26 races if not ready. No bird has ever scored higher than 19 points.

Q. When are your YBs weaned and is anything special done?

August Daelemans: My future Champion is weaned at 4 weeks and put into the YB loft. The YBs are given all peas so they learn to eat large grains quickly. The YB is not medicated as the parents are.

Horst Hackemer: He will go into the YB loft at 4 weeks and is medicated for Canker at 6 weeks.

Tony Melucci: He will be weaned at 24 days of age and has a settling cage to go in and out of.

Gary Squibb: He will be weaned at 4 1/2 weeks and may go directly into an old bird widowhood section or may go to the YB loft.

Campbell Strange: He will be put on the board at 24 to 25 days of age, gently worked through the traps. He will get no medication, but will be shown the water the next day.

Tom Fahmie: The YB will be weaned at 4 weeks of age and put in a YB section. He will be raced through open door and so I put a settling cage in front of this door so he may go in and out at will.

Hans Eijerkamp: Our Champion will be weaned at 3 weeks of age and put directly into his OB racing section. We use De Weerd Products for medication program. The YB would be given a Canker treatment.

William Geerts: All YBs go into a YB section and get no treatment. The strong survive.

Piet Manders: All YBs go into one loft and given a canker treatment.

Q. What is your daily exercise program about the loft in the weeks to come and how are your birds trapped?

August Daelemans: The birds are trapped through open widows and go out for about an hour in the morning and evening.

Horst Hackemer: The birds get no trap training per se and go out mid-day only.

Tony Melucci: The birds are going in and out in a settling cage for about two weeks. While OB racing is on, the YBs go out late afternoon. After OBs, the YBs will go out morning and evening.

Campbell Strange: My landing board is also a settling cage which the YB will go in and out and through the trap. They are released at mid-day.

Gary Squibb: We use open door and the birds are released twice a day.

Hans Eijerkamp: We trap in Sputniks which are closed the first couple of days, then the birds are released late morning.

William Geerts: They get open loft two hours in the morning.

Piet Manders: They go out once a day, from 11 a.m. and called in at 2 p.m. Later in the year, they go out twice a day.