PUEBLO, Colo. – Robson Palermo leaned against the wall at the Thomas & Mack Center’s Hall of Champions with sweat still dripping down his face. A look of despair and pain was all the three-time World Finals event winner could muster during Round 4 of the Built Ford Tough World Finals.
Palermo wanted to smile.
He wanted to stay confident.
He wanted to say he was OK.
Clearly, he was not.
He eventually limped his way to the locker room, continuing to favor his left ankle that was stepped on by Smooth Operator in Round 1, ready to close the book on a “frustrating” and “disappointing” 2014 season.
The World Finals was supposed to be an opportunity for Palermo to transform a year of rehab on his surgically repaired shoulder into at least one positive outcome.
Instead, it left him saddened, rideless and unable to finish the event due to injury.
“Oh, it was really disappointing,” Palermo said. “It’s taken me a while to get over that. I felt really good and thought I was going to do really good at the Finals. I never had a bad swing like I did this year. It was really, really disappointing. I like to ride so much over there (Las Vegas) and to ride those good bulls for big scores. I went there and bucked off four bulls and it was no fun at all.”
According to Palermo, Dr. Tandy Freeman diagnosed him with a torn ligament in his ankle last week and he is expected to be out four to six weeks. The injury came just 19 days after he returned to competition for the first time after undergoing right shoulder surgery in April.
Beyond the physical limitations of his latest injury, there was another reason Palermo was disappointed about getting hurt. He had promised PBR Australia General Manager Glen Young and PBR Australia that he would compete in the country near the Indian Ocean this fall. Young had asked Palermo the past two seasons to come, but the Brazilian had to politely decline because of scheduled shoulder surgeries or rehab appointments.
Therefore, even though he is hurt and unsure if he will be able to compete, Palermo has decided to keep his word and is in Australia for this Saturday’s Caboolture Invitational in Queensland, Australia.
Palermo says the swelling in his ankle has gone down immensely since Finals and he has done his best to keep as much weight off it as possible.
“I am going to try and get on over there, but if I don’t feel good I won’t get on,” he added. “So far I feel good and I think I can tape my ankle and try to get on.”
Robson Palermo puts up 88 points on Black Bart in Round 1 of the 2014 Duluth Invitational in Duluth, Ga.
Defending World Champion Silvano Alves, Matt Triplett and Jory Markiss are other Built Ford Tough Series riders scheduled to compete in Australia this month. In addition to this weekend’s event, PBR Australia is also sanctioning the PBR New Zealand Cup (Nov. 13), the Troy Dunn Invitational (Nov. 15) and the Tamworth Invitational (Nov. 22).
Palermo is excited to spend time with Alves and his wife, Evelyn, seeing as the two have not been able to spend much time together on the road because of his shoulder injuries.
It is Palermo’s first trip back to Australia since competing in the 2007 PBR World Cup.
“I didn’t have much time to do different stuff,” Palermo said. “This time I am going to have some time to go to different places and (seeing) some different stuff. (Alves) is a funny guy to go with. It is going to be good. I wish my wife was going too, but the kids are in school and she has to work.”
Palermo will also be celebrating his 31st birthday on Saturday.
Alves, who is making his first trip to Australia, witnessed Palermo’s frustration during this year’s World Finals.
“Obviously it was sad that he got hurt, but I think he is going to get over it fast,” the 26-year-old said with the help of translator Miriaham Contreras. “Robson had three really good Finals and was expecting a lot of himself. He will be ready for next year because he has a lot of dedication, drive and passion. He will be ready by January.”
Palermo’s voice shifts from a mellow tone to excitement when the conversation of his injury woes switches to the 2015 Built Ford Tough Series season-opener on Jan. 2-3 in Baltimore.
The Rio Branco, Brazil, bull rider is ready to put his 35th finish in the world standings behind him and try to compete in a full season after riding in 39 combined BFTS events the past three years.
Palermo says the one positive that came out of Finals was that his surgically repaired shoulder gave him no physical issues whatsoever in the arena. However, he did notice that he needs to trust his shoulder after watching some video footage of his ride attempts that showed him favoring the once injured shoulder.
“I can’t wait to stay healthy and ride every single week and not hurt,” he said. “My shoulder is doing good. I didn’t feel anything at Finals. I don’t trust my shoulder yet. It looks like my free arm is tight and I didn’t move like I was supposed to.”
Palermo is going to be in Australia for 10 days before heading to Brazil on Nov. 19. Once he returns back to Tyler, Texas, on Dec. 2 he will begin his rigorous training regimen to prepare for 2015. It has been a hard task forcing himself to relax and take it easy, but the workout phenom knows it is what he has to do if he wants to make sure the next chapter of his bull riding career does not end up as disastrous as the last.
“These past six months have been really crazy here,” Palermo concluded. “I hope next year is going to be a better year. I really hope so. When the sport gets tough, you need to get tough.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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