By: Justin Felisko
September 26, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – Luis Blanco was laying on the operating table last November and looked up at the ceiling.
Blanco began thinking about how hard he had worked throughout the entire 2015 season to earn a trip to the 2015 Built Ford Tough World Finals only to break his right ankle during Round 1 attempting to ride Cowtown Rock.
“When I broke my ankle on the first night, I thought I would retire,” Blanco recalled this weekend in Colorado Springs during the Rumble in the Rockies following a third-place finish.
“When you are on the table for surgery, you look around and you are alone. You just hurt.”
4.28 seconds into his first career World Finals appearance and just like that his season was over and he was now faced with a potential six-month recovery.
Blanco had used a 2-for-3 showing at the 2015 BlueDEF Finals to earn a Wild Card berth to the World Finals.
His efforts ended up all for naught.
“I was going to have my best Finals,” Blanco said before shaking his head. “I was really disappointed. When Tandy said I had to wait six months I thought I lost my year.”
Blanco had one plate and six screws inserted into his right ankle. It took him two months to start walking again with full pressure on his surgically repaired ankle and following two weeks of physical therapy he was cleared to begin working out.
“(Freeman) said I could get on in three months and I felt like a champion again. I (thought I) can fight to be Top 35.”
Once he was cleared, his now wife, Meghan, encouraged him to go to Cowboys Dancehall in San Antonio and compete in a Touring Pro Division event. The bull caliber in San Antonio is always much weaker than a BlueDEF Tour or a Built Ford Tough Series event and it would be a good opportunity to see how he felt.
“I got healthy really fast,” Blanco said. “I said, ‘Good point. Let me try.’”
Blanco went 2-for-2, riding Batista for 79 points and Hoss for 84.5 points, to win the event.
“That day opened my mind and I say, ‘Well, I don’t have to feel pressure anymore. I feel healthy. I feel strong.”
Blanco has since been trying to fight his way toward another a trip to the World Finals, where he hopes to have a do-over from 2015.
He competed at the Sacramento, California, BFTS event in February as an alternate and Last Cowboy Standing in May, but otherwise Blanco’s first eight months of the season was spent on the PBR’s BlueDEF Tour and Touring Pro Division level.
However, Blanco went 32-for-73 (43.83 percent) at the BlueDEF, TPD and PBR Mexico level to rise to 35th in the world standings and earn a trip back to the BFTS on Aug. 27.
Since then, Blanco had been battling back-and-forth as an alternate trying to crack the Top 30 and get a seeded spot back on the BFTS.
Blanco’s work finally paid off after he went 2-for-3 for a career-best third-place finish this past weekend at Broadmoor World Arena.
Blanco earned 240 points, 180 points for placing third in the event average, to move from 34th in the world standings to 26th.
The 27-year-old began his weekend with an 84-point ride on Brown Sugar for 10 world points (sixth-place round finish) and then rode Scary Harry for 85.5 points and a third-place finish (50 world points) in Round 2.
Blanco was bucked off by Cochise in 1.91 seconds in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
“My ankle feels weird sometimes,” Blanco said. “It depends how I move. I can feel the muscle hook with the screws. So I have to pop it and feel good again. It just feels weird. It doesn’t hurt.”
Blanco now has the most breathing room in the world standings than he has had all season long. He leads No. 35 Marco Eguchi by 227.5 points with four regular-season events remaining.
The Built Ford Tough Series heads to Eugene, Oregon, on Saturday and Sunday for the Wrangler Long Live Cowboys Classic. Fans can watch Round 1 action on PBR LIVE beginning at 10 p.m. ET.
Blanco concluded 2015 a career-best 41st in the world standings – a very different position than where he currently sits.
“You feel more comfortable,” Blanco concluded. “You don’t have that pressure. This happen to me last year. This year I don’t have that pressure. I just wait for each bull I have to get on and go jump for jump.
“I am focused on the Finals.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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