FORT WORTH, Texas – There are at least two riders in the PBR who don’t believe in the so-called sophomore slump.
Last year’s top two rookies – Joao Ricardo Vieira and Eduardo Aparecido– are back in the Top 11.
Vieira is ranked third in the world standings, while Aparecido is 333 points outside of the Top 10 after three consecutive Top-10 finishes, including a Built Ford Tough Series event win in Nampa, Idaho.
Eduardo Aparecido puts up 89.75 points on King Buck in the championship round, winning the DeWALT Guaranteed Tough Invitational in Nampa, Idaho.
“I feel good and I’m happy to be here riding bulls,” Aparecido said.
Aparecido finished last year ranked seventh, but admitted it was a difficult transition coming to the U.S. from Brazil.
Obviously it had little to do with riding bulls, but everything to do with family. His wife, Kelly, and their two daughters, Maria Eduarda and Maria Luiza, are still living in Gouvelandia as are his parents.
“Last year was kind of a hard year because I’m so close with my family,” he said with the help of Guilherme Marchi translating.
Aparecido’s family traveled with him in Brazil.
Nowadays he relies on the friendships he’s formed with veterans like Marchi, Robson Palermo and fellow second-year rider Vieira. Aparecido and Vieira lived together in Decatur, Texas, until Vieira’s wife, Mara, and daughter, Maria Clara, moved to the U.S. earlier this year.
“It’s great support,” said Vieira. “I feel more free with my family here.”
Vieira flew home to Itatinga following the Sacramento, Calif., Built Ford Tough Series event and accompanied his family to Decatur before heading to Anaheim, Calif., for the LiftMaster Chute Out.
“Before I was thinking all the time how is my daughter? How is my wife? With my family here together gives me more power and strength,” Vieira said.
Now he can focus entirely on competing, whereas Aparecido still relies on his buddies.
During this past 15-week stretch – 14 for Aparecido, who missed the season-opener in New York because of visa issues – the bond between fellow Brazilians has carried Aparecido through those tough times when he yearns for his family.
“When I’m in Brazil my family goes with me to the bull riding,” said Aparecido. “I’m never even alone for two weeks from the family.”
Marchi added, “I take my hat off because when people come from Brazil they think over here is so easy – win money – but it’s not. It’s different. When you leave everything in Brazil and you come here the language is different, people are different and then you need help from other guys for translation to buy everything.”
The one place where both Aparecido and Vieira, who earned the top rookie honors last season when he finished third in the world standings, have made themselves right at home has been in the arena.
Vieira is again ranked third and has twice – St. Louis, Mo., and Arlington, Texas – won events this year.
Joao Ricardo Vieira puts up 90.75 points on Smackdown in the championship round of the 2014 BFTS Invitational in St. Louis.
He’s ridden 22 of 52 bulls for a 42.31 percent average and in 15 events he’s recorded eight Top-10 finishes, six coming inside the Top-5 with the pair of wins. Two other times he nearly won and settled for second-place finishes in Oklahoma City and Albuquerque, N.M.
With 11 events remaining, he already has one more Top-5 finish than last year and is one shy of last year’s win total.
“God blessed me to come here and (ride) so well last year,” Vieira said. “This year, I work harder to be a champion.”
RELATED: A look at the world standings
Speaking of World Champions, Vieira said he’s inspired by the world titles won by Marchi (2008), Silvano Alves (2011, 2012) and Renato Nunes(2010). He also draws motivation from Mike Lee (2004), Kody Lostroh(2009) and J.B. Mauney (2013).
“It’s a dream to come here to the United States and ride with the best in the world,” Vieira continued. “I’m happy for everything—my career is doing so well and I never believed I would do (this) well last year and this year.”
Marchi is quick to point out Vieira’s college degree in veterinarian studies.
“He’s a doctor too,” said Marchi. “He’s so smart. He’s tight with money and, I think, he’s going to do well here with his career. He has the potential to be a champion not one year, but a couple years. He rides so strong and he’s a good guy too.”
Vieira will turn 29 in July.
By comparison, Aparecido will turn 24 in June.
Although he’s only recorded five Top-10 finishes this season, Aparecido has only gone 0-for-the-weekend twice in the past 14 events.
Like Vieira, he’s covered 22 bulls. However, he’s done so in only 41 outs and has a 53.66 percent riding average, which is a better percentage than everyone ranked above him other than Fabiano Vieira (61.9 percent).
“I’m happy this year to be riding better and to win an event,” said Aparecido, who continues to adjust to a new routine without his family, while Joao Ricardo Vieira looks forward to arriving home in Decatur after each event.
His family is always there to greet him, especially after a long three-day event like the one last weekend in Billings, Mont.
“The United States is home right now,” he concluded.
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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