ALLENTOWN, Pa. – A little less than a year later, and many of the same questions that came with Fabiano Vieria’s pursuit of a world title in 2014 remain the same in 2015.
It was inside the PPL Center last year that Vieira went 3-for-3 to win the final Built Ford Tough Series regular-season event to move to within 511.63 points of then-world leader Joao Ricardo Vieira.
However, once he made it to the Built Ford Tough World Finals, Vieira’s unstable right shoulder caught up to him, and he went just 1-for-5 to finish fifth in the world standings.
Still, it isn’t unheard of for a bull rider to be able to overcome a shoulder injury to his free arm and win a World Championship.
Just ask Michael Gaffney.
Gaffney won the 1997 World Championship by going 5-for-5 while riding with an unstable left shoulder, which was his free arm as well, that he first injured at a 1994 rodeo in Fort Worth, Texas.
“I rode with it for quite a while,” Gaffney recalled. “I dealt with it from ’94 all the way through winning the world title in ’97. Then I had surgery done in the spring of ’98 I think.”
While Gaffney is unaware of how similar Vieira’s shoulder injury is to his, he is confident that Vieira is learning to compensate with the injury just like he did in the early 1990s.
“It almost became natural to find yourself in a position where you knew where and where not to go with it,” Gaffney said. “You did it. You got talked into that position or you got flung into that position or you got jerked into that position and you had to go from there. You knew where your limits were a lot of times once you have been dealing it with for a while.
“At the same time, God I would hate to deal with that same thing right now with the level of bulls the guys are getting on.”
The shoulder, which he first dislocated in May 2014, hasn’t slowed Vieira too much in 2015.
The Perola, Brazil, bull rider is currently fifth in the world standings and he trails world leader J.B. Mauney by 1,305 points.
Vieira is 13-for-19 and earned 1,405 points toward the world standings – the second-most behind Mauney – since the BFTS resumed in August to put him on the outskirts of the 2015 world title conversation.
The 13 rides are the most on the BFTS since Aug 1, and at one point Vieira had tied a career-high with nine consecutive rides.
Another win in Allentown could potentially put the 33-year-old within less than 1,000 points of Mauney heading into the regular-season finale next weekend in Tucson, Arizona.
Vieira went 2-for-3 last weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina, for a fourth-place finish and 170 world points.
“Yeah, last week (Springfield, Missouri) I didn’t ride nothing,” Vieira said in Charlotte. “Today, it was a nice ride. I had two good bulls.”
He rode Blues Man for 85.25 points in Round 2, before putting up 88.5 points on Diesel in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
“My shoulder helps me 100 percent,” Vieira said. “Now, it is no pain ever. Nothing. My first bull spun right and I felt nothing. This bull (Diesel) spun strong left.”
He faces Cooter (0-0, BFTS) in Round 1 and Wicked (21-3, BFTS) in the 15/15 Bucking Battle on Friday night.
The 15/15 Bucking Battle will air on CBS national television Saturday at 2 p.m. ET.
Vieira said the last time he felt pain in his shoulder was after the Tulsa, Oklahoma, BFTS event last month when he had to pull over at a gas station and put his shoulder back into place.
Gaffney remembers plenty of times in his career where he too had to find a way to get his shoulder back into place at home or on the road.
He also spent much of the week participating in exercises designed to help strengthen the muscles around his torn ligaments.
“I was always doing my band work to try and create a protective shield around it,” Gaffney said. “Tandy and the guys gave me the therapy to use hopefully to my benefit. I did that consistently. I didn’t lay off that. I always did the specific rotations with the bands and lay on the ground with a light dumbbell and rotating up and down. I can’t count how many thousands of those I have done.”
When Gaffney won the world title, there were only 18 Built Ford Tough Series events, and the World Finals wasn’t five consecutive days in Las Vegas.
Vieira has already competed in all 24 BFTS events in 2015, and will need to get on potentially six bulls over the course of five days at the Finals.
The odds may appear not to be in Vieira’s favor, but so too was the case when Gaffney won his gold buckle. That year, Gaffney needed to ride all five of his bulls to surpass Adriano Moraes, who couldn’t compete because of a broken leg.
Gaffney saluted Vieira for his toughness when asked if he would offer Vieira any advice.
“I am not the one to be giving advice to a guy like that,” Gaffney said. “It sounds like he is doing everything he can. He is in the Top 5 in the condition he is in, for crying out loud, my hat is off to him. I have been there and done that.
“It is a war of attrition and you have to keep digging down deep and that sounds like what he is doing. He is handling it pretty, damn good.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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