LAS VEGAS – Silvano Alves grinned, slowly moved his head backward, and leaned against the gray wall inside the Thomas & Mack Center on Sunday afternoon when asked once again about how many World Championships he envisions himself winning before the end of his career.
It remains a difficult question for the 26-year-old from Pilar Do Sul, Brazil, after he tied Adriano Moraes’ PBR record of three World Championships by going 6-for-6 at the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
“I don’t know,” he replied through translator Miriaham Contreras. “No, no I don’t know. I just want to ride. As long as I am riding, I am happy.”
Minutes earlier he said during the post-event press conference with the help of Megan Bradford, “I respect Adriano, but for me, this isn’t important. I want to win championships, but that’s not the important thing. I want to ride my bulls.”
Yet by riding his bulls and becoming the most consistent rider on the Built Ford Tough Series, Alves has done the unthinkable of winning three world titles in his five-year career in the United States.
It is still hard for the shy and modest Alves to even talk about his legacy as a bull rider. He doesn’t want to be viewed as boastful or cocky. He calls himself a “normal” guy competing alongside the greatest bull riders in the world.
His mantra has always been to just ride his bulls and everything else will take care of itself. It is why he still shies away from any predictions of how many gold buckles he sees in his future.
His friend and fellow bull rider Robson Palermo says Alves rarely talks about those kinds of things because of his humility.
“He is very humble, very quiet and he doesn’t explain much about it,” Palermo said. “He don’t tell you, he don’t tell me. He is not going to say it, but I feel like he wanted to be a World Champion three times so bad. Maybe next year he will be going hard for the fourth title, but he isn’t going to tell you. He isn’t going to tell me, too.”
Moraes knows his record will fall one day, and he knew from the moment he first saw Alves ride six years ago that Alves would be the man to do so.
“I knew it would happen in a short period of time,” Moraes said. “This is not going to be his last. He is going to be much better than we ever were because of the titles. He is going to win four, five, six, seven – who knows how many more?”
Moraes began to hear about Alves from his friends in Brazil a few years before Alves made his BFTS debut and he started to do some research into who this talented kid was. Everyone that he talked to believed Alves was the next great bull rider.
Moraes began to see some video of Alves and eventually watched him ride when he was 20 years old. The general consensus was that Alves had been riding like a World Champion-caliber bull rider since he was 15.
Since making his BFTS debut in Nampa, Idaho, on April 9, 2010, Alves has ridden 264-of-413 bulls for a riding average of 63.92 percent. He’s won 11 regular-season BFTS events, his first career World Finals event title this weekend, placed in the Top 5 at 46 events and finished inside the Top 10 of 61 events.
“He is the rider that rides the most bulls,” Moraes said. “He is the most consistent guy we ever had, and I believe he is going to go down as the best bull rider we have ever seen.”
Alves has also ridden with ice in his veins on the PBR’s biggest stage, making the 8-second whistle 25 successful times in 30 attempts (83.33 percent) at the World Finals.
Alves ($5,266,273.59) is the fastest to earn $1 million, $2 million, $3 million, $4 million and $5 million in the history of the PBR. It took him just four and a half years and 130 events to break two-time World Champion Justin McBride’s career earnings record to become the richest athlete in Western sports.
McBride picked Alves to win the 2014 world title at the start of World Finals and says that Alves is certainly in the conversation as one of the greatest riders ever to compete in the history of the sport.
“You’ve got to put him in the conversation and a lot of people are not going to want to,” McBride said. “People are going to want to put asterisks by his World Championships. (They are going to say) ‘he picked his bulls. He did this. He did that.’
“Silvano has won world titles within the rules of the sport of bull riding that were set up for him to compete in. How can you not put him up there with three World Championships?”
Alves strategy has always been a subject of conversation, but this year it became a major topic during the stretch run to the World Finals as he continuously turned down re-rides and accepted low scores, including a career-low 55.75 points in Nampa, Idaho. Overall, he turned down a BFTS-high nine re-rides this year.
His small-ball style approach to bull riding – he has averaged 84.31 points per ride in his career – and a slow start to the season resulted in him not being in first place in the world standings all year, but it did keep him right in the mix for the World Championship before he capped off a dominating October to finish the month with 13 consecutive rides.
Alves put the exclamation point on his third championship by ending 2012 World Champion Bull Asteroid’s streak of 30 consecutive buckoffs and rode the bull for 87.25 points to clinch his first career World Finals event title.
“Silvano stuck to his plan – stay on all of them – and there is one guy here that stayed on all of them,” PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said. “You can’t argue with that and he is a World Champion for a third time.
“You don’t get given World Championships, you have to earn them,” Lambert said. “It was a great feat to ride several of the bulls he rode this week.”
1997 World Champion Michael Gaffney said, “This guy is a wolf and he is always right there. It is not by mistake. You can’t fault him for that. It is a different strategy. It may be a strategy you hate, it may not be the strategy you may do, but you have to give him credit for doing what it takes to win.”
Alves led the BFTS this season with 50 rides and a riding average of 54.35 percent. He placed in the Top 5 seven times and posted 12 Top-10 finishes.
Nine-time World Champion Ty Murray agrees that Alves deserves to be in the conversation with the all-time greats.
“He’s got the total game,” Murray said. “You can’t fault Silvano’s game. He understands the points system. He has played it right three out of the last four years. Pressure never affects him and I have never seen it affect him. I never felt like I could leave myself in that kind of situation with such little room for error. Pressure is something everybody has to learn to deal with and he is a master at it.
“The only thing I still am going to say that under the current points structure, if you get a guy hitting homers and gets on fire, then (Alves) game plan can come up short without you doing everything you could’ve done to win.”
Murray added that 2014 easily could have been Alves’ fourth consecutive world title if not for the dramatic, come-from-behind championship performance by J.B. Mauney last year.
Mauney says in his mind there is no doubt that Alves should be listed alongside the greatest.
“Oh, yeah. It don’t matter how you do it,” said the 2013 World Champion. “Anytime you can win three world titles – two of them back-to-back – you are a great.”
Alves called 2014 his hardest season to date. He dealt with a right shoulder separation early in the year and began the season in an uncharacteristic slump. He credited his wife, Evelin, and his son, Eduardo, and daughter, Hanyelle, for helping him remain focused and confident throughout his struggles. Their support meant the world to him.
“I know I have been criticized before throughout the years,” he explained. “This year was definitely harder than before. I just wanted to keep my mind clearheaded. I didn’t want to think about that stuff. I just wanted to come in and do my job. I am no different than anyone else here.”
Alves began the Finals as the No. 3 rider in the world standings and trailed No. 1 Joao Ricardo Vieira by 511 points. It was the farthest back of the No. 1 spot that he ever began World Finals with. He concludes the year 1,938.06 points ahead of the second-place Vieira.
“They are all very special to me, but this year I did have a lot going against me to ride the best bulls,” Alves said. “All of them have been very special to me. It means a lot for me to win this championship again.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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