By: Justin Felisko
January 18, 2017
PUEBLO, Colo. – Marco Eguchi sat inside the Built Ford Tough Series locker room on Sunday afternoon in Chicago and meticulously took his time wrapping the white wad of medical tape around his metallic right elbow brace.
For the past year, Eguchi has been trying to find the perfect blend of medical tape to give his riding arm enough support, but also enough freedom, to cover some of the toughest bulls in the PBR.
That, along with a finally healthy riding elbow for the first time in two years, Eguchi has surged to No. 3 in the world standings and has the second-most BFTS qualified rides (6).
“Good start,” Eguchi said. “I am 100 percent healthy. In my head, it is OK too. I feel strong now. I am in better shape. I am confident now. “
Eguchi is third in the world standings heading into this weekend’s Express Employment Professionals Invitational. He is 290 points behind world leader Jess Lockwood.
He has drawn Call the Law (0-0, BFTS) for Round 1.
The 27-year-old posted his best qualified ride in three years when he rode Catfish John for 89 points during Sunday’s Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
“That was a really, really good ride,” two-time World Champion Justin McBride said on CBS Sports Network. “Catfish John. Around to the right. I mean is getting after it. Big time jumps right there. Eguchi was perfect. Whatever the bull through at it, he had an answer for it.
The ride capped off a 3-for-4 showing by Eguchi at the Chicago Invitational. Eguchi finished in sixth place with 105 world points and has earned 655 points through two weeks of competition.
The fast start by Eguchi has him on pace to compete in his first full BFTS season since 2014.
Eguchi injured his elbow attempting to ride Pound The Alarm in Nampa, Idaho, in 2014. He would only record 13 more qualified rides on the BFTS before being cut from the PBR’s top tour in March 2015.
“I am now comfortable,” Eguchi said. “Original focus was to get back on BFTS. I know I am going to the next event. I will be relaxed. I don’t care too much about the money or the points. I don’t worry no more.
“It was hard being hurt for so long.”
It wasn’t until last summer that Eguchi, who never decided to get surgery on his elbow, was able to work his way back to the BFTS, and he went on to finish 27th in the world standings.
Eguchi had only nine BFTS rides in 2016. He is already four rides away from surpassing that mark.
The last two years have been a far cry from the bull rider that began his career with three Top-15 finishes and averaged 32 rides per season, though.
In fact, Eguchi began 2014 as a potential world title contender and was seventh in the world standings at the time of the elbow injury.
Three-time World Champion Silvano Alves remembers when Eguchi was in the title conversation in 2013. Eguchi finished a career-best sixth in the world standings in 2013.
Alves believes Eguchi is beginning to regain the same kind of form and confidence from then.
“Oh, yeah. He is going to be like 2012 or 2011,” Alves said. “He rode good all the time. Two years ago, he had a little trouble with the elbow and mentally too. Now, he keeps going. This year he is more confident. He can ride really good and ride with any of the best cowboys in the world. He can ride any of the bulls here.”
Eguchi also rode Dirty Deeds for 84 points in Chicago, and he also turned down a re-ride option following 68.75 points aboard Precious Air.
The Poa, Brazil, bull rider has been riding with the same elbow brace for over a year now. He no longer has to fiddle with it or learn how to ride with it.
“Before I got my brace, I sometimes would feel pain,” Eguchi said. “Sometimes I would not. Right now, I just use the brace and I don’t feel anything.”
Eguchi agreed this is the first time since 2014 that he is focusing on the big picture. The last two years were surrounded with question marks about his elbow and other distractions.
He is healthy and believes he can once again be Top-5 contender.
“Now, I come to the events to win,” Eguchi concluded. “I don’t come to lose. Sometimes that happens, but my focus is on a world title.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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