By: Justin Felisko
January 21, 2017
OKLAHOMA CITY – Dener Barbosa took a seat inside the sports medicine room at the National Western Stock Show last week and let out a sigh.
The 22-year-old was sitting on the exam table with a large heating pad on his right shoulder.
Two days earlier, Barbosa had ridden Diamond in the Rough for 86 points and had arrived for the final day of the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event in the running for an event victory. Barbosa would go on to buck off his last two bulls in Denver before heading to Chicago for his 2017 BFTS season debut.
Barbosa, admittedly frustrated with the state of his free arm, then bucked off both of his bulls – Milky Jones and Buckeye Bill – in Chicago.
“It is very hard,” Barbosa said with the help of Guilherme Marchi translating. “Two bulls bucked me off. When bulls turn into my hand, I buck off (because) I have to reach out.
“My shoulder is only 60 percent.”
Barbosa, who will first have to pass the PBR’s concussion protocol in Oklahoma City after sustaining a concussion in Chicago, is set to compete at this weekend’s Express Employment Professionals Invitational.
The 2016 PBR Brazil champion is trying to earn a full-time spot on the BFTS for the first time. He is currently 44th in the world standings after going 8-for-12 at the Velocity Tour and Touring Pro Division levels.
Barbosa famously rode 90 percent of his bulls in Brazil last year, earning the nickname “90 Percent” from Derek Kolbaba and Jess Lockwood during the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
Barbosa has appeared out of place at times against the rankest bulls in the PBR on American soil. Then there are moments when he makes a highlight reel ride – i.e. 87.5 points on Stone Sober at the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
The Paulo de Faria, Brazil, bull rider said the inconsistency in large part has to do with his free arm injury.
Barbosa re-injured in surgically repaired right shoulder last June when he was slammed hard into the ground by WhatsApp following a 90.5-point ride.
“I did surgery before and then a bull bucked me off one time, and I hit the hard ground, and made it loose,” Barbosa said. “Sometimes I feel like it wants to come out. It feels loose.”
Barbosa, who was 19 years old at the time of his first shoulder surgery, added that X-rays in Brazil showed no serious structural damage.
“Doctors say it did not hurt the surgery, but it feel loose,” Barbosa said. “I don’t feel confident to reach all the way and open up with my arm. That is why I ride with (tightness).”
Barbosa has been taping his shoulder to help it stay in place at PBR events.
He takes on American Sniper (2-2, BFTS) in Round 1 Saturday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Barbosa was one of the looser bull riders in Brazil in recent seasons.
Recently, he has ridden at times with a stiff shoulder like that of eight-year veteran Fabiano Vieira.
Vieira has dealt with significant shoulder injuries since 2014. The 33-year-old just last week dislocated his riding arm when he was hung up against Wicked Stick in the 15/15 Bucking Battle in Chicago.
Vieira is not competing in Oklahoma City.
Barbosa has reached out at times to the bull rider 12 years senior to him. He also borrowed Vieira’s shoulder brace – yes, the one that Vieira ditched after one night – before he got his own.
“He tells me, ‘I am sore,’ Vieira said. “His shoulder depends on the day, if he is sore or not sore.”
Barbosa said, “I am trying to find a way to ride so it won’t hurt more.”
Vieira said that if Barbosa eventually needs surgery again that he should do it. The difference between the two is that Vieira was at the latter half of his career, while Barbosa has many years ahead of him.
“Dener is young, he can get surgery,” Vieira said. “If I was young, I would get surgery. I have maybe one year left riding bulls.”
Even when healthy, Barbosa appears to have a little bit of a riding style similar to Vieira.
Vieira agreed with that assessment.
“He is maybe close to me,” Vieira said before laughing. “Dener rides good. He doesn’t move his shoulder much, same as me. His shoulder does not shake too much. The bull does not move back. He rode Stone Sober at the Finals. Stone Sober bucked me off two times.”
Barbosa worked out with Marchi in Chicago to learn of ways to try and build strength in the muscles near his shoulder.
“We worked out together,” Marchi said. “He did some exercises to make his shoulder strong again. The muscles are getting big and getting strong.”
Barbosa believes he can ride even better than how he did in Brazil if he can get his shoulder healthier and regain his confidence.
“If I was 100 percent, I would ride better than I did in Brazil. I would be more confident.”
Even so, Barbosa assured he can fight through the pain and earn a spot on the BFTS, and, ultimately, a trip to the 2017 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
“My dream is to be here on the top,” he concluded. “I wish I can ride good and stay forever here.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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