By: Justin Felisko
November 04, 2016
LAS VEGAS – You can’t go too far inside the locker room at the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals and not see Valdiron de Oliveira’s pearly white smile or hear his hearty laugh.
The 37-year-old has been enjoying his 10th consecutive trip to the Built Ford Tough World Finals and recently became the sixth rider in PBR history to record 400 rides on the Built Ford Tough Series when he rode Smooth Over for 84 points in Round 1.
Oliveira has also been one of the most welcoming riders on the BFTS since making his PBR debut in 2007 at the Jack Daniel’s Invitational in Nashville. It is almost too fitting that the fun-loving Brazilian rode Born to Boogie (82.25 points) for his first career ride.
There’s still is a tad bit of sadness in his voice, though, when he is asked about his World Championship shortcomings.
Oliveira was once a perennial world title contender for five consecutive season (2008-2012) before a herniated disc in his lower back forever altered his career.
The Goias, Brazil, bull rider was dominating the 2012 season before he injured his back and watched himself trickle down the standings and finish fourth overall.
In 2011, he finished second to World Champion Silvano Alves.
Oliveira underwent career-threatening back surgery in 2012 in Brazil and returned to competition in 2013 following two months of rigorous rehabilitation with esteemed physical therapist Nivaldo Baldo.
He qualified for the World Finals four straight years following the surgery and has finished no lower than 16th in the world standings.
“Yeah, I am mad about (my back), but this is not my fault,” Oliveira said, before sighing. “In life, God has one line for you. We all have different plans. You never know. I am 37 years old. It is still very important for me to win the world title.”
2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi believes Oliveira would have won a world title if not for his back injury.
“How tough he is, everybody knows,” Marchi said. “He built his fan base in the United States. He is one of the best bull riders and toughest guys I have seen in my life on the tour. Four hundred is a lot of bulls. He has been on the tour for a long time. He is one of the most consistent guys. He had his struggles a little bit, but I think he is going to do good this week.”
Oliveira is 401-for-769 (52.15 percent) in his BFTS career. He surpassed 50 qualified rides in a season four times.
“That is a feat,” two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney said. “That is a lot of bulls and a lot of years.”
Oliveira is 26th in the world standings and has already been eliminated from the 2016 title race.
This week, though, Oliveira is looking to channel his former self and have a Cinderella finish at the World Finals.
He has never won the World Finals event title – the second biggest accomplishment outside of the $1 million PBR World Championship.
“It is the next best thing,” Oliveira said. “It is very important for me to win the World Finals and to keep going on, but I will keep thinking about it.”
Oliveira would be the oldest rider to ever win the World Finals event title.
His best finish at the season-culminating PBR event was a third-place in 2009. Oliveira is 30-for-58 (51.72 percent) in his 10 trips to the World Finals.
Oliveira has ridden four of his six bulls attempted during PBR Finals week and heads into Round 3 a perfect 2-for-2 at the World Finals and fifth in the event average.
Oliveira rode 2016 World Champion Bull contender Crossfire for 85.5 points in Round 2.
Winning the World Finals will be a tall task. Oliveira hadn’t event ridden two bulls in one BFTS event since February, but he says he is up for the challenge this weekend at T-Mobile Arena.
“I am feeling confident,” Oliveira said. “I feel strong. I have prepared at my house to come here. I need to focus. I don’t want to listen to nobody about retiring or that I am old. I say, ‘Get out of here, kids.’”
Oliveira selected Calypso (7-3, BFTS) with the ninth-pick in the Round 3 draft.
He admits that he is mulling retirement and is “confused” about what he wants to do for 2017.
There are some days he wakes up and thinks maybe this is it, and other nights he loves the adrenaline rush he has in the arena when he makes the 8-second mark.
He won’t make a decision on his future until a few weeks after the season. If he does come back, he will ride only more season.
“Sometimes I joke about it and sometimes I am serious,” Oliveira said. “When my body is a little bit sore, I think maybe I am going to retire. Right now, everything is great. I feel strong. Two more years? I don’t think so. I want to go to the Finals and take some time off. Rest my body and think about some things. I don’t want to retire and then change my mind. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to come back in one or two months.
“When I retire, I retire.”
Oliveira still has two, and likely three more, ride attempts left at the 2016 World Finals.
If this week does indeed become his last event, it would be a special way to go out on top.
“Whenever is my last event, I want to remember it for my whole life,” Oliveira concluded. “It would be pretty great.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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