By: Kristian Limas
October 05, 2016
PUEBLO, Co. – Kurt Shephard is no stranger to long winding roads. The Atherton, Australia, bull rider travelled a long way from home to ride on the Built Ford Tough Series.
But, like many young athletes trying to make their name, their best laid plans don’t always work out. Shephard has yo-yo’d between the BFTS and the BlueDEF Tour throughout the season and currently sits at 40th in the world standings.
He last appeared in the BFTS in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and spent last weekend at the BDT event in Albany, New York.
Constantly jumping between levels can be nerve-wracking for any athlete no matter the sport. But for many, it’s in the moments where things aren’t going their way, when champions are built.
For his part, Shephard has taken it all in stride and has enjoyed his experience in the U.S. so far.
“It’s been good I’ve just been going about it as usual,” Shephard said. “It’s just about staying on bulls and sometimes that works out and sometimes it doesn’t work out.”
Over the course of the 2016 season, Shephard is 34-for-119 at all levels of competition and a 28.57% riding percentage. The bulk of his appearances have been between Touring Pro Division events (25) and the BlueDEF Tour (20).
On the BFTS, he has gone 4-for-25, good for a 16% riding percentage. His best finish game in Billings, Montana, where he went 3-for-4 and finished fourth in the event.
It’s been a year of learning for Shephard, who came over from Australia in 2014, and adjusting to the level of competition in the U.S. has been an ongoing process.
“I haven’t missed a lot of events,” Shephard said. “I’ve been around the Top 35 and have gotten in when guys got injured. But I definitely have to do something quick and start staying on them so I can start making up some points.”
The BlueDEF Tour has been kind to Shephard and has helped him hover around the Top 35 and get him into several BFTS events this season. In 2016, Shephard has racked up five Top 10 finishes in the BlueDEF Tour and had his best finish in Hampton, Virginia, where he finished in second.
As the premier spot for rising bull riding talent, and a good place for veterans to fine tune their techniques, the BlueDEF Tour grind has helped several riders like Shephard stay sharp on their quest to World Finals.
Shephard is currently 25th in the BlueDEF Tour standings and will be travelling to Trenton, New Jersey, on Oct. 8.
As of now, Shephard is in a good spot to compete at the BlueDEF Tour Finals Oct. 29-31 at South Point Arena in Las Vegas. The winner of the BlueDEF Finals event, and the second and third place finishers, will all qualify to compete at the Built Ford Tough World Finals the next week on Nov. 2-6 up the Strip at the new T-Mobile Arena.
That’s far off in the future for Shephard, though, who’s only focus right now is to just keep things simple and work his way back into the Top 35. He is currently just 82.5 points behind current No. 35 Fraser Babbington, who cracked back into the Top 35 last weekend in Eugene, Oregon.
It doesn’t take much to get on a roll in bull riding, and that’s something Shephard is counting on.
“I just try and prepare myself the best I can during the week,” Shephard said. “Working out, getting on drop barrels and getting on bulls and then just go into the weekend not thinking of anything.”
That time during the week is crucial for Shephard and he says it plainly.
“Just be prepared and whatever happens, happens.” Shephard said. “Just got to try your best.”
Shephard knows he has a second chance at qualifying for World Finals if he doesn’t get back into the Top 35 before Las Vegas, but for him, it’s a point of personal pride to be among the best 35 bull riders in the world.
“I wouldn’t be satisfied if I didn’t make the World Finals seeded in the Top 35,” Shephard said. “That’s been my goal since the start of the year and since the season started. But it didn’t work out then yeah, I would take that second shot in the BlueDEF Finals.”
Wherever Shephard ends up at the end of the 2016 season, it will be in large part due to his determination and work ethic. As the PBR’s top-flight tour, it’s never easy qualifying and staying on tour, and for riders like Shephard, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
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