By: Justin Felisko
September 02, 2016
THACKERVILLE, Okla. – There were times last year when Eduardo Aparecido could be found tucked in the corner of various locker rooms trying to find a quiet place to record a voice message on WhatsApp to his family back home in Brazil.
In some instances, Aparecido would be in a rush to check in with his wife, Kelly, and their two daughters, Maria Eduarda and Maria Luiza before the start of a Built Ford Tough Series event.
How were their days going? How had they been? Were they sick? Scared? Was everything OK back home?
A proud husband and father, Aparecido had to fight off homesickness and those worries on a constant basis when he was here competing in the United States.
Aparecido admitted last week in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that trying to balance those responsibilities while competing on the PBR’s toughest tour – the Built Ford Tough Series – at times was a tough burden for him.
That has all changed these days, though.
It was exactly a month ago when Kelly, Maria Eduarda and Maria Luiza arrived in the United States for the first time as one family.
“It changes a lot with the kids being here because before when the kids were there, every time I would have to call on the phone,” Aparecido said with the help of Robson Palermo translating. “Sometimes I would come to the bull riding and go, ‘Oh, I need to call my daughter and my wife and all of that.’ But now they are here and I can just focus on the bull riding. I know everybody is safe at home and close to me.
“I can just think about riding bulls.”
The family is staying with Eduardo in his Decatur, Texas, apartment through the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals (Nov. 2-6 in Las Vegas).
Aparecido heads into this weekend’s WinStar World Casino and Resort Invitational sixth in the world standings. The 26-year-old is very much alive in the World Championship race with eight BFTS events remaining. Aparecido, who won the Thackerville BFTS event last year, trails world leader Kaique Pacheco by 1,291.17 points in the world standings.
However, time is of the essence for Aparecido, as well as for all of the riders, if he hopes to remain in strong contention come the Finals in November.
Aparecido has bucked off five in a row after returning from the summer break with two consecutive rides to begin the Music City Knockout.
In comparison, Pacheco and Cooper Davis have been on a torrid pace and have opened up the gap between them and Aparecido.
“This year, I have been close,” Aparecido said. “I know if I ride better, I am going to be there in first place or second. I look forward to every week to do that. I have been riding every single week. Right now I am in the Top 6 and I want to stay there. I look forward to making more points.”
Aparecido has drawn Cut the Cord (6-0, BFTS) in Round 1 and Mustache Sally (1-0, BFTS) in Round 2. He also has a matchup against Stone Sober (33-1, BFTS) in the 15/15 Bucking Battle. Fans can watch the 15/15 Bucking Battle on CBS national television Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
Two-time World Champion Justin McBride, who will be joining play-by-play commentator Craig Hummer for the CBS broadcast, and Silvano Alves have both said in the past month that Aparecido can potentially be a World Champion darkhorse contender.
“I like the way he rides and if he gets his confidence up and continues to ride good, he could be tough to beat,” McBride said. “Everybody forgets about him. He just eases along. Not a lot of attention goes his way, but he can ride.”
Alves pinpointed the same area of weakness that McBride did when it came to Aparecido. The three-time World Champion has acted as a mentor for Aparecido since the younger rider debuted on the BFTS in 2012 at the World Finals.
Alves believes if Aparecido can become a little more confident in his riding, then he will hit the next level of his potential.
“He rides good, but sometimes his confidence, he thinks he can’t do everything,” Alves said. “But he can ride all of these bulls.”
Alves added that he believes Aparecido will also ride better now that his family is by his side in the United States.
“Right now, he is good because he is with his family,” Alves said. “His wife and kids are here this year. This is the first time they have been here together.”
Aparecido is 27-for-58 (46.55 percent) and is one of 12 different event winners this season. His 27 qualified rides is tied for third most on the BFTS with Davis and Fabiano Vieira.
“I believe I can ride any bull here,” Aparecido said when asked if confidence was an issue for him. “I know where I come from and this has been awesome. I look forward to all of those bulls. Of course I believe I can ride everything.”
The Finals will be the ultimate test so far in Aparecido’s brief four-plus year career. He is 11-for-20 (55 percent) at the Finals in three previous trips, and he will likely need a career-best performance in Las Vegas this year if he hopes to stun the current front runners.
In his mind, Aparecido believes he can do just that.
“Of course,” Aparecido said. “This year I am changing more. I have tried to learn more about everything here. The bulls and all the stuff. I look forward this year to be a World Champion and I am going to try hard and do my best.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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