At 23, Chad Besplug was being prepped for
shoulder surgery when thought to himself, "I haven't accomplished
anything I wanted to."
At that point, he was undergoing his fifth surgery since turning
17, and still, there was no quit in the Canadian-born bull rider.
Three years healthy, however, he admitted, "There was definitely a
fear that I wasn't going to get the things done I wanted to."
Earlier this year, he rode his way onto the Built Ford Tough
Series as an alternate, and last week, he won the centennial
celebration of the Calgary Stampede.
With $152,222.63 earned, he's seventh in the qualifier
standings, and will be in Las Vegas for his first World Finals
appearance in October. By qualifying for the event, Besplug, who
grew up 90 minutes from Calgary, will also start the 2013 season on
"I've always known I could be at this level," said Besplug, who
will compete this weekend at a Touring Pro Division event in Thief
River Falls, Minn., "but I think it just took me a while to mature
and get over that stuff."
The stuff he's referencing happens to be a series of five
surgeries to his left and right shoulders that hampered the early
part of his career.
At 26, the Clare Holm-native literally feels like a different
For starters, being healthy has helped him to mentally and
emotionally get back to where he once was, when at 15, he began
dreaming of being a World Champion.
"I always had the mentality that I'm never
quitting no matter what, so it feels good to have that pay
Looking back at his ordeal, Besplug said undergoing surgery is
devastating for a 17-year-old, and by the time he was in need of a
third, fourth and eventually a fifth surgery, he came to the stark
realization that winning a gold buckle certainly wasn't going to be
It would have been easy to become bitter at his situation, but
he said every bull rider has to understand that some athletes go a
long time without being injured, and others battle more injuries
than most of their counterparts.
It's just part of the game.
Rather than complain, he dealt with the injuries and moved on.
Since then, he's spent more time in the gym training to get himself
in the best shape of his career, and while he admits he might not
be the most naturally-talented bull rider, he said he's working
equally as hard as anyone else competing.
"It was a long road here," Besplug said. "That's definitely one
of the things I thought about in the last week or so. I remember
laying on those surgery beds and thinking, 'What's going to happen
with this?' I always had the mentality that I'm never quitting no
matter what, so it feels good to have that pay off.
"It took longer than I expected, but I think your path never
goes the way you imagined it."
Besplug qualified for the BFTS as an alternate for the events in
Des Moines, Iowa, and Uncasville, Conn., before earning a chance to
compete at the next five events as one of the Top 5 money earners
on the TPD, who wasn't already ranked in the Top 25.
Chad Besplug rides Loose Cannon during the BFTS event in
He'll be in both Tulsa, Okla., and San Antonio, before the next
If he isn't ranked in the Top 25, he'll earn another five BFTS
events as a top TPD rider thanks to the more than $100,000 he won
"It was taking a bit to adjust," he said, referring to the first
five BFTS events he rode in. "The riders are unbelievable. Those
guys are pretty impressive."
Having won in Calgary, where top-ranked riders like
Robson Palermo, J.B. Mauney,
Kody Lostroh and Austin Meier
were competing, he feels as confident in his abilities as at any
other time since turning professional.
In addition to continuing to learn and improve as a rider and a
competitor, his goal for the rest of 2012 is to win as much money
as he can.
Having won the Stampede, he said it's like having a chip on his
shoulder, and he won't settle for merely being average or placing
here and there. He wants to win, and more importantly, he wants
everyone else to know he's capable of winning.
"Having three years of being healthy will do a lot for you," he
"I like riding at big places for big money, and it's nice to
know I'm set for doing that for awhile."
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.