Polish handler wins prestigious International Junior Handler Final at Crufts 2024

Zofia Raboj & Nando have won the Joe Cartledge Memorial International Junior Handling final at Crufts. Credit BeatMedia | The Kennel Club

A 14-year-old junior handler with Nando (Arcticskies Fernando Avec Kessem JW) a Siberian Husky has won the Joe Cartledge Memorial International Junior Handling final at Crufts. On Friday evening, in the Resorts World Arena, judge Rony Doedjins from the Netherlands awarded first place to Zofia Raboj from Poland.

Runner-up was chosen as Cecilia de Bella, from Italy, handling Boo Boo (Sh Ch Zorrazo Hey There Yogi Bear), a Spanish Water Dog, and third place was Freyja Gudmundsdottir, representing Iceland, handling Blondie (Ch Malia Pumpkin Pie JW), a Tibetan Spaniel.

36 junior handlers from all around the world and aged between 11 and 19 years old took part in the prestigious final, which showcased their handling skills and breed expertise with a dog they only met that morning.

Zofia said: “I still can’t believe it, I really didn’t expect it. It’s the best feeling in the world to win this competition. I think Nando and I built a good relationship in the short time we had together. I showed what I could do and then just had fun with him. It’s a dream come true!”

Zofia lives in Poland with her family and two Basenjis and only started handling three years ago. She hopes to take care of people or animals in her future career.

Judge Rony Doedijns said: “Zofia presented her Siberian Husky in a very natural way and was 100% focused on the dog. For me this was the performance that impressed me the most on the day.” 

Tom Mather, Crufts Chairman, said: “It was a spectacular final this year and huge congratulations to Zofia on taking the winning spot. All the handlers did a fantastic job with their dogs in the main arena and are all stars of the future. We must thank all of our dog lenders once again who kindly allowed the competitors to work with their dogs on the green carpet.”