By: Justin Felisko July 01, 2014@ 11:10:00 AM
PUEBLO, Colo. ― The pain in Fabiano Vieira’s free arm was apparent with every buck and twist from Chad Berger’s Apollo Stripes during the championship round of the DCB Bull Riding Challenge on June 13.
The 31-year-old from Perola, Brazil, tried his best to keep his injured right arm as stationary as possible, but that is never an easy task to grapple with when trying to conquer a fierce and nearly 2,000-pound bull for 8 seconds, especially with a severely injured shoulder that had been dislocated a month earlier.
However, somehow Vieira put forth one of the gutsiest efforts this summer and was rewarded with 91.5 points for being the first man to conquer Apollo Stripes in 16 outs. The bull had bucked off 11 riders in Built Ford Tough Series competition the past two years.
It wasn’t all smiles though for the rider currently ranked second in the world standings. After being thrown into the Bismarck Civic Center ground hard on his disembark, Vieira grabbed his bull rope and walked toward the back of chutes. Grimacing in pain, he eventually sat down next to his gear bag and let out a sigh.
“That was a great, great bull ride,” Guilherme Marchi said as Vieira continued to catch his breath. “This bull has been on tour for a long time and nobody had ridden him.”
With the help of Marchi translating, Vieira said, “I feel pain right now, but it’s normal after a ride like that with a lot of power. I am going to be alright.”
Vieira, who suffered a thumb injury in Bismarck, finished the night 2-for-2 in his first bull riding action since the Built Ford Tough Rumble in Rockies, where he dislocated his right shoulder while being tossed to the ground by Cowtown Slinger. He was already competing with a torn right rotator cuff injury at the time of the shoulder dislocation.
“I said at the beginning of the year with Chris Pantani of Cooper Tires, I said nobody talks about that Fabiano,” Berger said. “He is a sleeper. He could easily come out here and win this world and he proved it again (in Bismarck) that he has that grit and everything if he can just stay healthy.”
Doctors had previously informed Vieira this season that he should undergo surgery to repair the injured shoulder, but the five-year BFTS veteran has adamantly refused to do so.
“I am not going to do surgery,” Vieira said. “I am never going to do surgery. I am tough enough to ride the bulls and avoid surgery.”
Dr. Tandy Freeman said following Last Cowboy Standing that Vieira would need to undergo surgery at some point or else he will continue to feel instability and discomfort while he rides. Regardless, as of Bismarck, Vieira said he had not seen Freeman and added that he was instead going to try and rehab the shoulder.
According to Vieira and Marchi, Vieira has been working with physical therapist Fernando Escobar in Decatur, Texas. He has been doing swimming exercises and shoulder workouts to help strengthen the shoulder.
He plans on resting for the majority of the summer and is remaining in the United States, because he and his wife, Jilian, are expecting their second daughter early this month.
Prior to getting on his first bull in Bismarck, Vieira explained that he understood if he were to get surgery, he may be out until the Built Ford Tough World Finals. He also readily admitted that he is “scared of surgery,” because of the needles, shots and knives. He has never had surgery before.
Vieira offered up a nervous laugh during the bull draft before the championship round on that Friday night in Bismarck. His 82-point ride on Al Capone in the long round put him in the 15th position for the draft, leaving him helpless, as his fellow riders selected the bulls of their choice. One by one, they went and as he stepped up onto the shark cage, there was only one bull remaining. Immediately, when Clint Adkins and Chad Berger announced Vieira would be facing Apollo Stripes, the two-time World Finals qualifier quickly responded, “No,” before laughing.
“I was very scared to get on that bull and get hurt again,” Vieira explained after the ride.
He had good reason to be nervous, too. Apollo Stripes had bucked off five different riders currently ranked in the Top 10 of the world standings – Silvano Alves (twice), Markus Mariluch, Guilherme Marchi, Mike Lee and Cody Nance. The bovine also took care of reigning PRCA champ J.W. Harris in Nampa, Idaho.
It is why PBR LIVE commentator and two-time World Champion Justin McBride came away so impressed by Vieira’s performance.
“Fabiano, being hurt as bad as his shoulder is and still riding so well is huge,” McBride said. “Apollo Stripes is a bull that they don’t ride. He just stopped him.”
If anyone understands what Vieira is dealing with, it is McBride. The richest athlete in Western sports history dealt with an injury to his free arm during the 2007 season. McBride was in the hunt for his second world title when he dislocated his left shoulder during the first round of the Chihuahua Challenge in Chiuahua, Mexico, in August, when he was bucked off by Gnash in 4.8 seconds.
McBride would miss the following BFTS event in Reno, Nevada, before returning for the final five regular season events. He then rebounded from an 0-for-3 start at the World Finals by riding four of his final five bulls – all for 90 or more points – to beat out Marchi and clinch his second world title.
Justin McBride clinches the 2007 world title by riding Camo for 92.25 points at the 2007 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
“In ’07, mine came out and they let me just rehab it, and I was given an ultimatum that if it came out again, I was going to have to stop and they were going to do the surgery then,” McBride recalled, “but if I could keep it in, I could finish the season.”
Freeman ended up performing surgery on McBride’s left shoulder to repair a rotator cuff tear and extensive ligament damage a couple weeks after the World Finals.
During the season, trainers would tape McBride’s shoulder, so it wouldn’t move around as much, and McBride believes that may be an option for Vieira in the second half.
Still, it is going to be tough, he noted.
“He is riding so well, and see the bad thing about it is it’s his free arm,” McBride added. “It would be so much better if it was his riding arm, because you could hold it there. You are not taking those chances. Now when it’s your free arm, there are so many different variables.”
However, Vieira showed the intelligence to make a smart adjustment.
“He has actually been into his hand, but he is compensating,” McBride said. “He is driving his shoulder down so it doesn’t have to come up. He really understands bull riding right now to be able to do that and make that adjustment, because most guys don’t even know that.
“But it is one thing to know it and then be able to do it when it’s all happening right then.”
In 2013, Vieira had to contend with a fractured right ankle early in the season and a left groin strain that caused him to miss 11 events. This year, Vieira finished the first half with a career-best 62-percent riding average and won the BFTS event in Sacramento, California, and tied J.B. Mauney for the season-opening win at the Monster Energy Buckoff at the Garden in New York.
He has positioned himself for a run at his first world title, but it may come down to his health when push comes to shove.
“I am doing physical therapy and getting stronger and conditioning,” Vieira concluded. “I just wish to be healthy enough to ride bulls.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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