SACRAMENTO, Calif. – In a big, slow and drawn-out circular motion, Fabiano Vieira demonstrates the movement and trust that he has regained in his right shoulder.
Vieira slowly speeds up his windmill like motion, showing that the energy and power he wants to generate a valuable 8-second ride has finally returned to his free arm after a 2014 season witnessed him tear his rotator cuff and dislocate his right shoulder multiple times.
The 32-year-old made the risky decision to not undergo surgery last year while trying to pursue his first gold buckle, and even after coming up short and placing fifth in the world, Vieira once again turned down the option of surgery this offseason.
For now, Vieira is confident in the shoulder that many believe cost him a genuine shot at winning the 2014 World Championship.
“It is 100 percent better than last year,” Vieira said. “It’s good. (There is) no more pain anymore, just a little bit – a hair.”
Vieira became known last year for his adjusted riding style that featured him holding his free arm tight to his body to try and prevent it from dislocating during the stretch run of the Built Ford Tough Series.
It was a gutsy effort that left many impressed — he even still led the BFTS with a 54.55 percent riding average.
Vieira is starting to display a greater trust in his shoulder in 2015 and he is no longer holding his arm as tight to his chest as last season. Ever since the 2015 BFTS season opener in Baltimore, Vieira has allowed his free arm to venture a tiny bit farther away from his body each week.
“First event, I was a little bit scared, but after the second event and New York I was like, ‘Ok, it is good,’ Vieira said.
The early results sync with Vieira’s assessment. He began the season 2-for-8, but he has now ridden four of his last five bulls following his season-best 87.25-point ride on Savage Moves during Round 1 of the Sacramento Invitational.
His recovery and rehab process began in Brazil this offseason when he decided to try and ride without taping his shoulder like he did during the final half of 2014.
“In Brazil, I took off the tape when I rode,” Vieira said. “I took it off for two or three events there. I won the short go and bucked off. I rode 3-of-4 there.”
He also spent time fencing and working on other improvements to his new home in Decatur, Texas, which he has had for seven months, to help strengthen and gain further movement in his shoulder.
Two-time World Champion and CBS Sports Network color commentator Justin McBride said he is still worried about the Perola, Brazil, bull rider’s shoulder.
He thought for sure that Vieira would have undergone surgery after his 1-for-5 World Finals performance that left him “exposed” against the rankest bulls during the five-day period.
“I hope for him that it will hold out and he could win a World Championship that way,” McBride said. “I thought it was an outstanding job getting through last year and I thought it showed up at the Finals and he couldn’t compete on those really rank bulls. He is tough, but the Finals keep coming back to my mind though. If the endgame for him is to just try and make some money this season, I think he can accomplish that. If it is to win a World Championship, I don’t think he can with his shoulder.”
Vieira pauses when asked if he is nervous about the shoulder dislocating once again this season.
“Ahhhh, a little bit,” he admitted. “I am a little bit (nervous), I hope I do not dislocate it again.”
Vieira earned 60 points Friday night for placing second in the round and he is up to 20th in the world standings with 165 points.
“If he trusts it and can ride with it, roll with it until it does have to be (fixed),” McBride said. “I felt like last year there were certain bulls he couldn’t ride and certain bulls he could ride. Now, if he feels like it has it good enough to where he can ride all of them go for it.”
Vieira believes a looser free arm and a better riding balance will be extremely valuable toward getting higher ride scores this year.
The defending Sacramento event champion is scheduled to meet Quiet Riot, formerly known as New Holland Powerstar, in Round 2 on Saturday night.
“I love riding here,” Vieira said while raising his free arm high into the air. “I have much better balance and can get better points.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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