By: Justin Felisko June 29, 2014@ 09:45:00 AM
PUEBLO, Colo. – After missing all of the 2013 season due to a broken left leg, Jesse Van Nek was finally able to celebrate the bliss of a bull riding victory.
The 21-year-old made sure to make the most of his final bull riding event before heading home to Australia on Tuesday by earning his second career Touring Pro Division victory on Saturday night at the Newark, New Jersey, BlueDEF Velocity Tour event with an 86-point ride aboard Leave It.
“Tonight, I went out there and thought to myself, ‘Keep tracking him down, just keep tracking him down,’” Van Nek said. “He had me back at one stage and I just kept making the moves that I was making, and made it back to the middle. It was a damn good feeling when I heard that buzzer go off.”
Van Nek’s long-round ride would be just enough as he and nine other riders all bucked off during a stout championship round inside the Prudential Center.
“It is a real good deal, actually,” the Queensland, Australia, native said. “I have been trying to get my feet back under me and ride a couple before I’m heading back home.”
Gage Gay rode Anger Management for 85 points, but finished in second place after Van Nek knocked the 2014 Rookie of the Year contender off the top spot of the leaderboard in the long round.
Gay had one final chance to get the lead back in the championship round after Van Nek was bucked off by Chigger in 5.65 seconds. However, Mr. Slim bucked off the 19-year-old in 3.56 seconds to end the event.
Rowdy Rice, who entered the event twice, placed third (84 points) and fifth (81.5 points), while Josh Moorer (82.5 points) was fourth.
Sean Willingham suffered a dislocated hip and concussion in the championship round when Big Kahuna bucked him off in less than four seconds.
Van Nek is in his first season back since missing 14 months due to a broken left leg he sustained at the 2012 Troy Dunn Invitational. He returned to competition this past February at the TPD event in Toledo, Ohio.
It has been an up-and-down return for Van Nek. Still, the Aussie believes he is starting to gain momentum here in the summer months.
“The last three months have been tough, but every week I have been getting better and getting to ride a lot. I couldn’t be happier. I appreciate what I am doing.”
While some riders would despise being away from the sport for such a long period of time, Van Nek said that in retrospect it was exactly what he needed.
“It was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Van Nek said. “At the time, I needed to take a step back. I was very young and was taking everything too fast. I need to stay humble to everything and have respect for everything I have. I needed the time off to really appreciate everything at hand. I got time to spend with my family. Before that, I didn’t get to see my family a whole lot, and they are the base of my success, so I had the chance to spend as much time as possible with them.”
That is partially why Van Nek is excited to return home to Australia this week. He was originally planning on taking the next two weeks off to refresh and spend time with his family before returning to the United States on July 19.
Although, Van Nek admits he may be tempted to enter PBR Australia Cup Series events: the Cairns Invitational (July 5) and Brendon Clark Invitational (July 12), while home.
“At this stage, I may give them a call, but I really just want to go home and hang out with my family and get fresh before coming back over here,” Van Nek said.
Although, a couple minutes later, Van Nek added, “It’s hard for me to do that. I am still contemplating whether or not to take my gear back. Every bull rider sees a bull in a pen and just wants to get on him, so that makes it hard.”
“If I take my gear bag home, I will definitely get on something, but if I leave it here then I have more of a chance not getting on. I will make that decision before I leave.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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