By: Justin Felisko
February 12, 2016
ST. LOUIS – When Silvano Alves was making his march toward a record-tying third World Championship in 2014, Fabiano Vieira was biting down on his tongue and trying to literally keep his right shoulder in place as he pursued his first career world title.
With only one truly healthy shoulder, Vieira’s bid for the PBR’s prestigious gold buckle and $1 million bonus came up short and Alves once again cemented his place among the all-time PBR greats by going 6-for-6 to win the 2014 World Finals event title and 2014 World Championship.
However, as Alves watched Vieira celebrate his second victory in the last five Built Ford Tough Series events last weekend in Sacramento, he admitted Vieira likely would have won the 2014 world title if not for his torn rotator cuff and dislocated shoulder.
“If he had no hurt shoulder, he is probably World Champion two years ago,” Alves said. “He has tried for a World Championship two years ago and he had a broken shoulder.”
Vieira finished 2014 fifth in the world standings and refused to undergo surgery to repair the shoulder. The decision made many feel that Vieira could never win a World Championship or last an entire season on the BFTS.
However, Vieira disproved his critics last season by competing in all 27 Built Ford Tough Series events and finishing fourth in the world standings. It was a career-best performance for Vieira, who arrived in the United States in 2010 with Alves.
“That is the thing,” CBS Sports Network commentator J.W. Hart said. “You have to learn with anything. Whether it be a foot, an ankle, a shoulder, an elbow, a hand. He is learning how to do it and adjust to it well.”
Vieira still hasn’t won that elusive gold buckle, but he heads into this weekend’s Bass Pro Chute Out, presented by Cooper Tires, ranked second in the world standings. He trails world No. 1 Paulo Lima by 131.34 points.
The 33-year-old is 10-for-17 (58.82 percent) on the BFTS with two event wins (Oklahoma City and Sacramento, California).
Both riders are also competing in the 15/15 Bucking Battle on Saturday night, which can be seen on the PBR LIVE mobile app, as well as CBS network television Sunday at noon ET.
Lima has drawn Wicked (22-5, BFTS) and Vieira will face off against Cochise (3-3, BFTS).
Vieira is coming off a 3-for-3 victory at the Sacramento Invitational that saw him post his first 90-point ride of the season. The Perola, Brazil, native made picturesque work on Roy for 90.25 points.
It was a ride Alves, as well as others inside the locker room, felt should have been more points.
“Fabiano is riding really good,” Alves said. “In my opinion, I think he needed a higher score for his ride. He is riding perfect and the bull’s position was bucking good.”
Vieira is trying to avoid any talk about a potential World Championship in 2016.
He has been down this path the last two seasons and is well aware the BFTS is a long, eighth-month grind, not including the two-month summer BlueDEF Tour run.
“I don’t know,” Vieira said when asked if he agreed with Alves. “Everyone is telling me, ‘What do you think for World Champion?’ It is a long time for the competition. This is only the fifth event now. I have won two, which is very nice. I don’t know. It is a long time until the Finals.”
Hart agreed with Vieira in Sacramento that it was too early to predict 2016 world title contenders.
The 2002 World Finals event winner did say that Vieira certainly has proved he can ride and most likely stay in contention without getting shoulder surgery.
“I always thought he probably could,” Hart said. “The first year, you questioned it. After he made it through the first year and has just a little bit of try, all he has to have is a little luck of staying healthy. That is all it will take I think. I believe in him. He has proven it. He has rode some rank ones, especially with that draft and that championship round where there are some pretty tough ones. If he can come in at any time in that upper half where he can get a decent pick, yeah he is very capable. Now when you come in there with only a couple of bulls to pick from, then, yeah, it may be a little tough. He has a legitimate shot at it.”
Alves believes Vieira will be right in it come the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals on Nov. 2-6 in Las Vegas.
“He has a good chance, probably,” Alves said. “Right now he is very confident. He is very, very concentrated now.”
Vieira has remained in contact with 2010 World Champion Renato Nunes, who he talked to before heading to Sacramento. According to Vieira, Nunes has been telling him he believes in his ability to join him as one of 15 World Champions in PBR history.
A few minutes after stating it was a little too early to talk about a World Championship, Vieira began to change his tune ever so slightly.
“I feel good about my chances to be a World Champ,” he said. “I was hurt a little bit last week (in Anaheim) after Boot Jack. In my head, I know I can ride good bulls. It is good competition.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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