LAS VEGAS - The Brazilians started off by winning the first six Built Ford Tough Series events of the year, and wound up taking 20 of 30 events, including the PBR World Finals.
Robson Palermo earned the event win at the Thomas & Mack Center, while Silvano Alves won the world title. It's the seventh world title for Brazil in 18 years, including the past two. Last year, Renato Nunes won the gold buckle and the $1 million bonus that comes with it.
"The great thing about the PBR is we always want the best - best bulls, best riders," said PBR CEO Jim Haworth in a post-event press conference. "Wherever they come from in the world, we want them here. That's what's been so exciting about seeing these great athletes do so well this year."
'The great thing about the PBR is we always want the best - best bulls, best riders. Wherever they come from in the world, we want them here.'
By close of business Sunday, the Top 5 spots in the final world standings all belonged Brazil - Alves, Valdiron de Oliveira, Palermo, Guilherme Marchi and Fabiano Vieira.
As both Alves and Palermo received their buckles following the event, a throng of family, friends and fans from South America chanted, "I am Brazilian. I am proud."
The large group assembled on the dirt sang, took pictures and enjoyed a celebration that rivaled the festive atmosphere in 2008 when Marchi won the title.
NEWS & NOTES
BRAZILIANS WAX THE COMPETITION: Prior to heading to Las Vegas, all 10 of the Brazilian Finals qualifiers gathered at Valdiron de Oliveira's house in Decatur, Texas. Oliveira said it was a fun time for all the riders and their families to enjoy one another's company before coming to Las Vegas.
Oliveira said it was about relaxing, not necessarily preparing for the competition.
At the Finals, they were a combined 30-for-60 with seven - Silvano Alves, Robson Palermo, Rubens Barbosa, Guilhermi Marchi, Fabiano Vieira, Douglas Ferreira and Oliveira - competing in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round. Wesley Lourenço also rode in three long rounds as an alternate.
Silvano Alves celebrates after clinching the World Championship on Sunday.
All but Ferreira finished in the Top 10 of the average. Their best round was the fifth, when they collectively covered eight of 11 bulls. They accounted for three of four qualified rides in the final round.
THE CHAMPS: Five of the past World Champions - Renato Nunes, Marchi, Kody Lostroh, Chris Shivers and Mike Lee - competed at the Finals. Collectively, they were nine-for-25, with Marchi and Lee making it to the final round. With Alves included, they were 14-for-31. Both Marchi and Shivers have indicated they will compete again next season.
LUCKY (?) REDHEAD: Upon emerging from the locker room for the first time at the Thomas & Mack Center on Wednesday night, the always-eager Cord McCoy said, "I've been waiting for this for 360 days." Little did he know then he would match up with Bushwacker on Friday night and Asteroid on Sunday afternoon. After experiencing a 48.5-point effort by Bushwacker, he said, "It's like getting to play one-on-one basketball with Michael Jordan."
'It's like getting to play one-on-one basketball with Michael Jordan.'
CANADA'S PRIDE: For the fourth year in a row, Aaron Roy received the Glen Keeley Award as the Canadian bull rider who earned the most money during the course of the entire season. He earned in excess of $139,000 in 2011 - the fourth consecutive year in which he also qualified for the Built Ford Tough Championship Round at the Finals.
MIGHTY JOE: Just before the start of Round 4, Joe Baumgartner and Jeff Robinson were chatting at the bottom of the Hall of Champions. Robinson asked how long he been fighting bulls, and Baumgartner told him 29 years, professionally. Baumgartner said he had fought nearly 7,000 bulls in Las Vegas.
"That's 7,000 times the fun," said Baumgartner, who added, "Well, there have been four times that weren't so fun."
In the first section of bulls Saturday, Baumgartner moved in to protect Harve Stewart, who had hung up on Class 6 Kat, and was hit with a horn under the chin like a prizefighter taking an uppercut - only this extra-heavyweight weighed 1,900 pounds.
Baumgartner, who felt like he let his fellow bullfighters and the Top 40 riders down, missed the final day of his career with a concussion. When he woke up after being knocked out on the dirt, Dr. Tandy Freeman asked if he knew where he was.
He replied, "It's a bull riding, not a rodeo."
'It's a bull riding, not a rodeo.'
TOURING PRO HONORS: Another retiree, Ross Coleman, was honored for the third time for hosting the PBR Sanctioned Event of the Year in his hometown of Molalla, Ore. According to Flint Rasmussen and in-arena announcers Brandon Bates and Clint Adkins, Coleman's event is affectionately referred to as "summer camp." The award is voted on by the riders themselves, and according to Coleman, the event has raised more than $250,000 for the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Oregon.
HAUNTED HALLS: Speaking of legends who no longer compete, the week began with the largest reunion in PBR history at the MGM Hotel & Casino. Arriving at the casino, J.W. Hart said, "Just walking in there brings back memories." Before moving to the Thomas & Mack Center, the World Finals events were held at the MGM.
MORE BLUE-EMU, PLEASE: Two nights before the start of the Finals, Shane Proctor said he was going to take it "bull by bull." When asked about his groin injury, he said the partial tear was taking longer to heal than the groin muscle he tore completely last year. He said he wasn't sure if it was an option, but that "if all goes to hell," he might speak with Freeman about having the groin surgically cut and letting it heal again. Proctor tried the first two rounds before opting out of the remainder of the event. With regard to cutting the groin, Freeman laughed and said, "That's not much of an option."
BUSTED DUSTIN: Fan-favorite Dustin Elliott kept fans abreast of his injury status through Facebook. Wednesday night, he was roughed up by Carney Man, and the next day he posted, "I got the snot stomped outta me last night! Took both hind legs on my back and head. I gotta get a new helmet cause that one broke. Just stitches on my nose and really sore." Elliott had a chance to return Saturday night, but, as he put it, "I'm out." Between the PBR Finals and the National Finals Rodeo, he's been to Las Vegas nine times, and this was the first time he was unable to finish an event.
'I got the snot stomped outta me last night!'
QUICK TURNAROUND: The opening round was tough on all 43 riders. They covered only nine bulls, and afterward Brendon Clark also used Facebook to inform fans that he was embarrassed by his performance. Clark wasn't the only rider to rebound on Thursday night. A night after needing until intermission to record five qualified rides, the field of competitors needed only the first section of bulls to put five scores on the leader board.
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