By: Justin Felisko May 20, 2014@ 02:30:00 PM
PUEBLO, Colo. ― Renato Nunes has performed his iconic and celebratory backflip many times over the past two years.
Following an 8-second ride, he typically climbs onto a railing inside the arena and launches himself backwards to the joy of the crowd. Nunes then claps his hands together, grabs his bull rope and heads to the locker room.
When the buzzer went off inside Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa, last month, Nunes flipped his hat high into the air. He then jumped off Cowtown Slinger, climbed the side rail near the stands, waved his right hand towards the crowd and performed an event-winning backflip that was two years long overdue.
His 88.75-point performance in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round capped off a 3-for-3 weekend which garnered Nunes his first BFTS win since 2012 – when he won the Pueblo, Colorado, Built Ford Tough Series event – and propelled him on an 8-for-11 run to end the first half of the season.
As the final seconds ticked away during his event-winning ride, Nunes glanced towards the chutes and saw all of his fellow riders cheering him on.
It was a special moment.
“That makes me so happy,” he added. “I am so glad to be with those guys. I saw it in their eyes. They were rooting for me to win Des Moines.”
The following week in Colorado Springs, Nunes made it two victories in a row by going 3-for-4 with a 90-point ride aboard Modified Clyde.
Nunes already has more 90-point rides (2) and Top-5 finishes (4) then he did all of last season. His six Top-10 finishes ties his 2013 mark. He has recorded 19 rides in 49 attempts for a 38.78 riding percentage.
He finished the first half of the BFTS ranked 12th in the world standings a year after being ranked 27th at the end of the 2013 first half.
“It feels really good to me,” Nunes said. “I had been up and down and it is good to get back on track and I am so glad to draw good bulls. I feel complete now. I feel like a bull rider. I still got this.”
Nunes, who told Joao Ricardo Vieira the day before Des Moines that he felt his luck was about to change, admits that he struggled with being so dominant in 2010 when he won the World Championship to having to fight his way to remain on tour last year.
It was only natural for frustration and doubt to creep into his mind at 32 years old.
“I got confused, because I didn’t know when I was going to retire,” he said. “I just wanted to be a bull rider, ride good, earn money and bring some money back home. It is hard when you just come and spend money and get bucked off and you can’t ride anymore.
“Thank God I proved to everyone that I’m still good enough to win anything.”
World leader Guilherme Marchi said Nunes had nothing to prove to anybody. He was a World Champion and has shown he is one of the best.
Every bull rider – or athlete for that matter – goes through ups and downs and slumps.
“He is a really strong bull rider, contender and one of the best bull riders in the PBR,” Marchi said. “He doesn’t have to prove to nobody, he already has a gold buckle in his belt.”
Nunes has seen plenty of bull riders come through the PBR that one day just lose their ability to ride as good as they used to. He remembers 2002 World Champion Ednei Caminhas’ rise and fall.
“It’s pretty hard because I saw a lot of guys do really good and after a couple years they just don’t do nothing anymore,” he explained. “Ednei Caminhas was the best and he come down and never got up again.”
Marchi has also dealt with his fair share of slumps during his 11-year career.
“That’s one of those hard things for us because when we have to struggle a bit we think about a lot of our struggles for riding bulls,” Marchi said. “You think about it in yourself and think you can do it, but sometimes you can’t.”
Nunes added that bull riding is different from other sports.
“We know we can win, but sometimes it is not going our way,” he said. “It is not like some sports where you can prepare for some things. The bulls, the bull rides, some things happen so quickly. You don’t have time to correct.”
It’s why that moment in April was so special to Nunes. He knows how hard it is to achieve those victories at this point in his career. He understands there are only so many years left for memories to be made with his closest friends on tour.
Nunes is planning on soaking in his final couple of years, however many are left, in his career.
“I think I can go another couple of years, but maybe not. I will see,” he said. “I know that if I retire I never am going to hang out with those guys anymore. I am going to have a lot of friends, but that’s why it is going to hurt me a lot because I have a big ranch to work on every day and I won’t have time to go to bull ridings. That’s why I want to spend more time with the bull riders and have fun with them and make some money for when I retire.”
Regardless, he isn’t done riding just yet.
“I got some feeling in my heart that if I want to do it, I can do it,” he concluded. “That’s why I still do it.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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