Bouncing back

Highlights

  • Valdiron de Oliveira competed for the first time since the World Finals in St. Louis.
  • Oliveira underwent back surgery, in Brazil, for a herniated disc that caused numbness in his legs late last season.
  • The injury left Oliveira, who had been the top-ranked rider for much of the season, unable to perform up to his potential at the World Finals. He wound up finishing the season fourth in the standings.
  • Oliveira has four more injury exemptions to ride his way back into the Top 30. He is currently ranked 112th in the world standings.

In This Article

FORT WORTH, Texas ― It's been a long four months for Valdiron de Oliveira.

After being atop the world standings for much of last season, he watched his lead fade down the stretch as he dealt with a herniated disc in his back that left him inconsistent and ineffective during the World Finals. By the end of the week-long event, the pain in his back began causing numbness in his legs.

In the end, he finished fourth in world.

"I'm a little bit scared because I don't know if my back is going to be sore or not."

Disappointed he was unable to truly compete and dejected an entire season's worth of work fell short of the ultimate goal of winning a world title, Oliveira returned to Decatur, Texas, thinking he would undergo back surgery within a week.

However, as with any surgery, there were no guarantees the procedure would provide the intended relief Oliveira sought. Hearing the differing opinions, the 33-year-old decided against the surgery despite the recommendation of doctors.

A month later ― after being able to do little more than lay in bed - Oliveira traveled home to Brazil, where he underwent surgery followed by two months of intense physical therapy and rehab.

"I feel great right now," said Oliveira, in St. Louis last weekend.

"Right now my back is great."

This past weekend, Oliveira not only competed for the first time since October, but it was also the first time he had climbed into the bucking chute and nodded for the gate since the final Sunday in Las Vegas.

He hadn't gotten on a single practice bull.

Prior to Round 1 in St. Louis, Oliveira admitted to being a bit worried.

"I'm a little bit scared because I don't know if my back is going to be sore or not."

Noticeably hesitant and anything but confident, Oliveira bucked off in 2.22 seconds and didn't look anything like the Top 5 contender he's been the past five seasons.

But it was all he needed to feel confident that his back was healed.

The past four months have been as mentally challenging as it's been physically demanding.

There were times, while he and his wife Andrea talked about the future, when he couldn't help but wonder if his career was over. Oliveira said the thought of not riding bulls was heartbreaking.

"Sometimes I cry because I love bull riding," he said.

"Me and my wife and my kids love bull riding. My kids sometimes talk to me about it and say, 'Hey daddy, when you come back to ride bulls?' I say, 'Pretty soon baby.'"

They were with him this weekend.

Emotionally he needed their support. Mentally he needed the support of his friends and fellow riders.

Each time he rode Guilherme Marchi, Silvano Alves, Fabiano Vieira, Renato Nunes, Marco Eguchi and others would crowd around the backside of the bucking chute with words of encouragement.

In Round 2 he made the whistle. He scored only 83.75 points on Tynan Tough, but it might as well have been the 90-plus-point ride he needed, last October, at the Finals. He sat up high, had good form and, more importantly, rode with confidence.

"I'm ready to ride," he said afterward.

He still has a long way to go.

There are those lingering thoughts of whether his back will hold up, but the confident Oliveira has said that if everything goes well this year, he'll be back again in 2014.

He missed six Built Ford Tough Series events and going 1-for-3 in St. Louis, he's currently ranked 112 in the world standings. He has four more injury exemptions not including the Iron Cowboy IV, in Arlington, Texas ― to ride his way back into the Top 30 and guarantee a spot on the BFTS.

The same confident Oliveira said it won't be hard to accomplish as long as he performs.

Shane Proctor, 1, and Alves, 2, are roughly 3,300 points ahead of him, but the confident Oliveira believes, "Maybe I have a chance to win the world title, but it's going to be hard."

Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC

 

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