Valdiron de Oliveira is the No. 1 bull rider in the world for good reason.
He’s attempted more bulls (60) than anyone else in the Top 40, ridden more (40) than anyone else, and his average (66.7 percent) is higher than anyone else’s, so naturally he’s scored more points (7,714) than anyone else.
Already one of the two most proficient riders in the past five years, his season average is a full 5 percent higher than his career average of 61.6 percent, and he’s on pace to shatter his career best of 62 qualified rides in a single season.
After 19 of 29 events, Valdiron de Oliveira already set a new career mark with five rides of 90 or more points and three Built Ford Tough Series wins in a single season.
Earlier this year, he set goal of never being shut out of any single event.
For the first 15, he registered at least one ride, and in 11 of those 15 events, he finished in the Top 10. It wasn’t until the last month leading into the summer break that he failed to make the whistle in two events.
It turns out the 32-year-old from Brazil, who isn’t one to make excuses, was saddled with the emotional pressure of knowing his father was ill.
Only after nearly a month and two separate hospitalizations of his father did Oliveira let on that his focus was on his family back home in Aparecida de Goiania rather than his riding.
He spent the summer with his family, and has returned to the United States with one goal in mind: winning a gold buckle and the million dollar bonus that comes with it.
Despite his lackluster performance from mid-April through mid-May, he still leads Silvano Alves by 386 points, and no other rider is currently within one BFTS event of taking the lead from him.
Cody Lambert: “Valdiron dominated the first part of the year. It was just total domination. We knew he could ride like that. We’ve seen it for a few years, but I haven’t seen him keep his consistency going the last few events. … He did pretty much tell me that he wanted to go home sooner rather than later, and I have no doubt that’s what it is. When you don’t want to be there, you can’t beat the guys that do want to be there. When you don’t want to be in the game, you’re not going to beat someone who is equally talented or similarly talented that does want to be in the game. … I don’t think (worrying about his father’s illness) is a weakness. I really felt bad for Valdiron when his dad was in that way, and he wanted to leave and he couldn’t. That was a time when the communication gap or not understanding the culture here (caused a problem), because he should have just left. He should have just gone home to Brazil, and no one would have thought badly about (his decision). He just didn’t know. Here’s a guy trying to do the right thing, but he didn’t exactly know what the right thing was. When you don’t want to be there and it’s not fun – when you’re talking about Valdiron – there’s no telling what goes through his mind at that time. I know from experience there are lots of things he could be thinking; like, ‘What would it do to mom if I got hurt this week?’ How devastating would that be if he gets hurt? He’s not wanting to be there, and he’s not feeling good about anything. You can’t say he was thinking that, but something was wrong, because he was riding less like himself and more like a guy that was in the bottom five. … (Earlier in the season) it was like you were seeing Adriano (Moraes) in his prime or Justin McBride or Chris Shivers or Ty (Murray). You were seeing that kind of stuff. You knew whatever bull he drew was going down. You knew he was going to win. You knew he was going to ride about everything. … The same things that hold true for Robson Palermo hold true for Valdiron: He doesn’t make excuses. He’s not focused on what he’s going to do in front of the camera. He’s focused on riding. He’s there to do his job.”
Ty Murray: “So far this year, he’s been the hardest to get on the ground, and that tells the tale of guys this day and age, when every time they get on a bull and nod their head it’s a great bull. The other thing that I think has really helped him out is he’s always had a strong riding percentage – pretty much ever since he first came around – but in years past, I said in a judged sport, he didn’t stand out. This year, especially the first half or maybe three-quarters up to this point, we saw him having some flare. Say what you want, but in a judged sport that’s a very important element. … I think when he got here he was talented, and like I said, he’s always had a high riding percentage, but there’s a difference in riding good and believing that you ride good. To be a World Champion you have to believe you ride good. You have to know it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think he thought he wasn’t good, but I don’t think he quite got how good he is, or that yes, he does have the potential. … Every guy is going to have his ups and downs. That’s just sports. It’s a rare thing in sports to see a guy who comes out and is just completely flawless in a season. I don’t care what sport you’re talking about. Whenever you’re trying to do things at the highest level, there are going to be times when things get off-kilter. Where you see a lull is that it’s not always an easy correction. Sometimes it takes a little figuring out, and in the course of figuring it out, sometimes you bark up the wrong tree. Everybody has had it happen to them. I’ve had it happen to me, and then you get to where you don’t know up from down. … I don’t think he fell off the map. I think what he went through with his dad had a lot to do with it. I always saw that when you’re happy in your personal life you’ll be happy in your professional life. I know it held true for me, and I’ve seen it hold true for a lot of champions over the years.”
J.W. Hart: “He just stayed on his bulls, period. Period, period, period. That’s what nobody else has been able to do like him. He’s always been one of the most consistent guys throughout most of the year – just something happens to him. He gets hurt or something knocks him off the leader board for a world title. … It’s timing. Justin McBride was one of the best guys for three or four years before he won his world title. Sometimes it’s just timing – same way with Guilherme Marchi. It took him three or four years of consistently beating on that door to finally cash in. I don’t know what it is about Mother Nature and bull riding, but she makes those guys pay their dues before she gives them a world title. … He’s always rode the rank bulls, the out-of-line bulls, the eliminators, and he’s always rode the spinners. I don’t know if he’s riding a little bit better or those other guys are just a little bit off, or what it is. He’s the frontrunner, but I’m not saying he’s going to win it. Right now he’s got the best chance of anybody.”
— by Keith Ryan Cartwright
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