CLOVIS, N.M. – Valdiron de Oliveira became used to being the butt of Kaique Pacheco’s jokes this past season on the Built Ford Tough Series.
Pacheco would walk by Oliveira after a qualified ride and congratulate the 36-year-old on another ride despite being another day older.
“Oh, yeah,” Oliveira replied when asked if he is given a hard time for being the oldest Brazilian bull rider on the BFTS. “Marco Eguchi and Kaique (Pacheco) will tell me sometimes, ‘Oh, you are the old guy here.’
Oliveira then bursts out laughing before saying, ‘I say, I work out every day!’
Well, Oliveira the old dog once again showed this year that he still has some gas left in the tank following a disastrous 2014 season that featured a 4-for-36 slump at one point.
Oliveira responded this season with a 13th-place finish in the world standings, his best since placing fourth in 2012.
He went 30-for-71 (42.25 percent) and won the Seattle Invitational in March. He also posted four Top-5 finishes and eight Top-10s.
It was such a good year for Oliveira that he didn’t want to stop having so much fun.
Instead of staying home in preparation for the 2016 season, he decided to hop in the truck with Wallace de Oliveira and head to Clovis for this weekend’s L.J. Jenkins Invitational BlueDEF Tour event.
It was inside the Curry County Events Center last year that Oliveira believed 2015 would be his last season.
However, 2015 was too much fun and he feels healthy following 24 events on the BFTS.
“I am healthy and having fun because I am not sore or nothing,” he said. “I am trying to do better this year because my career is coming to an end. I don’t know if I will ride two more years or one more year. I love bull riding. I love this sport. I love my friends and fans in bull riding every week. I spend one week home at my house and I miss it.”
Oliveira heads into Round 2 of the L.J. Jenkins Invitational BlueDEF event sitting in fourth place with an 84.5-point ride on Rewind.
The conclusion of the event can be seen on PBR LIVE on CarbonTV.com starting at 9:30 p.m. ET.
The soon-to-be 10-year veteran even joked with Sean Willingham following his ride about being 36 years old.
“I feel healthy and I feel good,” Oliveira reiterated. “I feel ready to ride good. I don’t care about the World Championship or nothing. I want to just ride my bulls and have fun for my family and fans. That is more important.”
While it is likely his window for winning the world title may have slipped away following five consecutive Top-5 finishes in the world standings from 2008-12, Oliveira still has the ability to be a potential Top-15 rider.
Simply put, it is about having a love for the sport at this point in his career.
“I continue to ride because of my love for my bull riding. It is not for the money. I know the money is important to take care of my family, but it is more important to love the sport you do for work. If you rode for the money, I don’t think you would ride good.”
2004 World Champion Mike Lee shares Oliveira’s love for bull riding.
Lee double entered in Clovis – something he is accustom to doing at BlueDEF and Touring Pro Division events – and is 2-for-2 heading into the second round.
The Decatur, Texas, bull rider’s 84 points on Ridin’ Dirty No Restraint has him fifth in the event.
Lee is almost a sure bet every weekend to be at some bull riding somewhere in the United States.
In 2015, Lee nodded his head 127 times overall at various BFTS, BDVT and TPD events. He went 51-for-127 (40.16 percent).
Lee had the third most outs among Top 35 riders and already has two on the board for 2016.
“I don’t know,” Lee said when asked why he doesn’t take a break. “It is fun. I am still enjoying it. It is all I know how to do. I have been doing it since I was 10 or 11. I don’t know. It is about all I do. I ride bulls and fix fence and ride horses. That is about it.”
Lee is coming off his 14th consecutive World Finals qualification – the most among active PBR riders – after first qualifying in 2002 as an 18-year-old.
However, Lee did post a career-low riding percentage of 28.21 percent in 2015.
Regardless, Lee’s commitment and focus has helped him continue to be one of the most successful riders in the PBR despite various injuries and bumps and bruises along the way. Lee is competing with an injury to his free arm/hand that is causing numbness at times when he rides, which is why Lee’s free arm appears awkward sometimes.
According to ProBullStats, Lee has over 700 rides and 1,500 outs in his 14-year career at various bull ridings.
That doesn’t include endless practice pen sessions and rides that will likely have him over the 2,000-out mark.
“I go to everything I can,” Lee said. “That is what I do. I go every weekend, except around Christmas. There isn’t much to go to around then.”
Lee will likely become the second rider in PBR history next year to surpass 500 career rides on the BFTS next season. According to the PBR competition department, Lee has 487 qualified rides.
Oliveira finds it impressive how Lee has been able to come back from various injuries and brain surgery to have such a fruitful career.
“Well, I am impressed with him because he has had many concussions and had surgery on his head,” Oliveira said. “He is a strong guy. He tries to do better in this sport every week.”
Oliveira and Lee both intend on competing in the final three BlueDEF events of the 2015 calendar year before the 2016 BFTS begins in January.
“I know God helps me quite a bit,” Lee said. “Some days you are pretty sore, but that is what happens when you start getting older, and I think I am going to start maybe working a little harder for it. I plan on doing some exercises to keep my body limber, stay in shape and keep my mind focused.
“I guess that is all it takes.”
Markus Mariluch will not be competing in the final night of the L.J. Jenkins Invitational after sustaining a left leg injury attempting to ride Show Me during Round 1.
Mariluch isn’t sure if he broke the leg or not, but he will follow up with Dr. Tandy Freeman early this week for an official diagnosis.
“Hopefully I didn’t tear my ACL or anything,” Mariluch said. “It hurts like hell and is really sore today. If it is just broken, I could probably be back in time for Chicago.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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