PHILADELPHIA - Two weeks ago, when Guilherme Marchi arrived home from a Built Ford Tough Series event in Tampa, Fla., he was greeted at the door by his 4-year-old son.
Joao Gabriel Marchi proudly yelled, "You win again, daddy. You win."
The night before, Marchi had won his second BFTS event of 2012, and as great as it felt to reaffirm he's in the conversation when it turns to contenders for the world title, it was all the more emotional for the 30-year-old to be the hero of his young, impressionable son.
It was made all the more special when you take into consideration how emotional the past season has been for the 2008 World Champion.
He's contended with ongoing issues related to his injured wrist and riding hand, he's had a series of nagging injuries - lower back and a sprained right toe - and, more importantly, he was most affected by a horrific barrel racing accident in which his wife Patricia broke bones in both of her legs.
"I had a tough year," said Marchi, who is excited to see what happens down the stretch. "Finally, everything going good - going one way."
The direction he's speaking of is up in the world standings. Not to mention his family, which also includes his daughter Manuela, are together and doing well.
With two regular-season events left - Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio - it's a great time of the season for Marchi to be riding well.
"I'm excited to ride bulls," said Marchi, who was one of two riders to go 2-for-2 on the first of two nights of competition at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. "I'm not tired. I want to get on bulls again, and that's a great feeling."
Guilherme Marchi is run over by Firestorm after putting up 87.5 points on the bull in Round 2 in Philadelphia.
Marchi is second in the average behind Austin Meier with 170 points. Meier has 175.5 points on two bulls. Marchi took Chin Music with the second pick in the bull draft for Round 3, while Meier selected Jack on Black.
More importantly, Marchi is positioned for his fourth Top 10 finish in the past six BFTS events.
He arrived in Philadelphia ranked fifth in the world standings, and was 1,943.5 points behind Silvano Alves. Friday night, he gained 103.5 points on Alves and moved from fifth to fourth in the standings.
"I think I still have a chance to be a champion again," Marchi said.
He pointed out that while Alves wants to ride every bull, his game plan is not to pick the best or rankest bulls. That approach might have left the door open for someone like himself.
Marchi sees the opportunity, and in spite of his age - he turned 30 in July - or what anyone has said about him this year, he knows as well as anyone that an opportunity exists.
When he won the title in 2008, he rode 75 percent of his bulls for much of the year, won five BFTS events and nearly clinched the title before he even arrived in Las Vegas. As a result, he had an undeniable confidence.
When asked if still wanted to be thought of as having a killer instinct, he said, "Of course."
As difficult as winning might be, the season after winning the gold buckle is as difficult - if not more so.
"I think I lost the passion a little bit," Marchi said. "When you try so hard three times and you're reserve, reserve, reserve, and you think, 'Oh, I'm never going to realize my dream. I want to be a champion.' When I did win the buckle, it felt like I won a normal event."
He explained that he was emotionally drained.
He was tired and worn out for much of the 2009 season from four years of being right in contention.
"I'm not tired. I want to get on bulls again, and that's a great feeling."
Marchi was injured in 2010 and it carried over for most of 2011. Then, earlier this year, people began to question his abilities, but he said in spite of what people see at the event - not only with him, but other riders - no one knows what the riders go through at home during the week.
While Patricia was recovering, Marchi was caring for two young kids.
On the weekends, he said, it's tough to leave his family, and it was made all the more difficult throughout the springtime knowing he was leaving them in the hands of a babysitter.
The entire situation took an emotional toll on him.
"It's tough when you come to the event and your head is at home," Marchi said.
He later made a point to say, with Patricia now healthy, "I'm getting back my passion to ride bulls."
When he considers all that's happened in 2012, he's amazed to see he's still a viable Top-5 contender.
Aside from a sore lower back, he feels good and has gone from doubting himself to thinking he has a couple more years before he thinks about retiring.
He's feeling almost as confident as he did in 2008, which is not a good thing if you're Alves, L.J. Jenkins, Valdiron de Oliveira or J.B. Mauney.
In fact, he said, he's eyeing up another world title (or two) and competing with a chip on his shoulder.
"I'm going to make my life better," said Marchi, who surpassed $4 million in career earnings earlier this season, and would like get up over $5 million between now and when he retires. "I love what I do. That's my life and everything I have today comes from bull riding."
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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