BIG SKY, Mont. – Robson Palermo has known for a while he had to change something with his riding style if he wanted to continue to ride bulls professionally.
Multiple shoulder surgeries three years in a row and nerve damage in his right bicep (riding arm) have simply forced him to abandon a style that he had grown up with and used to win a PBR record three Built Ford Tough World Finals event titles.
At 32 years old, Palermo can no longer lock his former Herculean bicep and he has to ride with more finesse.
Palermo admitted the change has been hard, but he is starting to see some success with the different style.
“If you see me ride before, I used to lock my arm,” Palermo explained. “If you hear people talking about it, they say I lock my hips on the bull. I did. I believed in my arm and my bicep was strong. Now, I can’t and I need to ride more on balance. I need to go forward. I need to move and not put too much (stress) on my bicep. I don’t have any power in my bicep anymore and I can do nothing about it. I am learning.”
Palermo is currently 40th in the world standings and is in desperate need of some points in the world standings if he hopes to compete at the Built Ford Tough Series Battle at the Beau on Aug. 7.
Palermo trails No. 35 Douglas Duncan by 106.25 points, but various injuries, as well as L.J. Jenkins’ retirement, means Palermo may still qualify for Biloxi if he falls short of the Top 35.
It will be close though.
In fact, there are nine riders separated by just 100 points from No. 36 Neil Holmes to No. 44 Lachlan Richardson heading into the final weekend of the BFTS summer break.
Palermo, Holmes, Duncan and Richardson are just four of the 40 riders competing on Thursday and Friday at the BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in Big Sky, Montana.
Top-15 riders such as No. 2 Matt Triplett, No. 5 Nathan Schaper, No. 11 Stetson Lawrence and No. 14 Cody Nance are expected to compete.
Fans can watch the event exclusively on PBR LIVE on CarbonTV.com starting at 9 p.m. ET.
This week is Palermo’s first trip to Big Sky.
“I am so happy to go. I have heard a lot of good things,” Palermo said. “I have heard a lot of people talking about it and I want to go see everything.”
He has drawn Say I Won’t Playboy (10-4, BFTS) in Round 1.
Palermo has competed sparingly this summer. He nearly won the BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in Bismarck, North Dakota, with an 89-point ride on Redbone and he also competed at the Silvano Alves Invitational in Brazil.
The Rio Branco, Brazil, bull rider has spent time this summer studying film of himself as he continues to get on practice bulls at his Texas ranch.
“I am learning,” Palermo said. “I get on bulls at my house all the time and go to bull ridings. I am watching video and seeing what I need to do. It is working out, but it is hard for me after so many years to change my style. I am starting to have the confidence in riding with balance.”
Palermo has gone 7-for-17 (41.18 percent) on the BDVT compared to 5-for-21 (23.81 percent) on the BFTS.
After many years of frustration, Palermo is finally able to laugh about his shoulder injuries and his bicep problem.
“I don’t think about it anymore,” Palermo said. “I feel strong. I was talking to a friend of mine and said that I feel stronger. Before, everything I did my shoulder would come out. If I played on the trampoline with my kids, my shoulder would come out. It doesn’t come out anymore.”
Palermo actually needs an additional surgery on his left shoulder after bending a screw from a previous surgery when he was stepped on by Super Juan in Stephenville, Texas, in April.
However, Palermo says the screw hasn’t been hindering him thus far.
He also pulled a muscle in his back carrying a calf on his ranch the week before the Salinas, California, BluDEF Velocity Tour event.
Regardless, Palermo has his focus on making a run at the Top 30 so that he can try and win a fourth World Finals event title this year at the 2015 Built Ford Tough World Finals in Las Vegas on Oct. 21-25.
“I feel great,” he said. “When I started feeling good about myself, then I start riding good. I want to go to the Top 30, Top 10. I need to work hard and see what can happen.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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