PUEBLO, Colo. – Fabiano Vieira has been forced into becoming almost a Jekyll and Hyde-type of bull rider inside the arena during the second half of the 2014 Built Ford Tough Series.
Following one ride he can sometimes be seen grimacing and holding his injured right shoulder before heading to the locker room, while in other instances he can be found goofing around after a successful 8-second ride and keeping his unstable right shoulder in place for a high five with Flint Rasmussen.
Sometimes he is gritting his teeth in pain, other times he is smiling and joking around with the other Top 35 bull riders in the world.
You just never know when it comes to Vieira.
It is simply the way things are going to be for the No. 2 rider in the world standings during the final two regular season events, as well as the additional Monster Energy Bulls on the Beach 15/15 Bucking Battle, before the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals next month.
Vieira has continued to defy the odds with his unstable right shoulder, the same one in which he tore his rotator cuff back in March and dislocated in May, and remains in the thick of the world title race.
“2014 is my chance,” Vieira said. “I am 32 years old now and I am in second place. I have a chance this year. This is my year.”
He has become confident in the shoulder despite opting out of the Built Ford Tough Championship Round on two different occasions –Thackerville, Oklahoma, and Oakland, California – in the past five weeks.
Vieira’s decision this past weekend to not ride in the championship round led to a step back in his chase for the world title as world leader Joao Ricardo Vieira went on to cover Cowtown Slinger for 89.5 points. Joao finished in second place and increased his lead over Fabiano to 578.88 points.
Fabiano Vieira, whose 80.25-point ride on War Party would have given him the 15th spot in the championship round, said he didn’t want to risk getting on a bull that may have done further damage to his right shoulder.
He admits that even though his shoulder is feeling better than ever since dislocating it in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in May, he still worries at times about it dislocating again before World Finals.
“Not too much pain for riding, I think it is good,” he said before the Kawasaki Strong Battle at the Bay on Saturday. “It moves good. It feels better now. I put tape and (use) the brace because I am scared for it to come out one more time. I think it is better now. It is good.”
Vieira even moved his arm in a circular motion to demonstrate his increased motion in the shoulder. While he has done a bit of physical therapy, he is not able to work out much in a gym setting because of the injury. Instead, he has used time on his Decatur, Texas, ranch to rope bulls and ride on horseback as a way to remain in shape and build back some muscle in his shoulder.
“You watch Fabiano, he hurt his shoulder and he still fights every week,” said an impressed Marco Eguchi.
Vieira has ridden the most bulls on the BFTS this year (38) and is tied withMike Lee for the fewest bulls attempted (66) among riders ranked inside the Top 10 of the world standings. Vieira and Lee, who tore his right meniscus during the first half, have only missed two BFTS events this season.
Vieira’s riding percentage (57.58 percent) leads the BFTS and he is the only rider among the Top 15 riders in the world currently riding better than 50 percent. Since 2000, every PBR World Champion has finished the season with a riding percentage higher than 50 percent.
He has ridden 7-of-16 bulls in the second half despite having to keep his right shoulder (free arm) held tightly close to his body to help limit the movement and potential risk of the shoulder coming out of place.
“I had to concentrate on my balance and how to close my arm and keep my balance,” Vieira said.
Vieira has been adamant about not wanting to undergo surgery on his shoulder this year. Originally, he said this summer that he never would want to go under the knife. However, Vieira has said he may consider surgery after the season depending on how things go during the rest of 2014.
“After the Finals I may get surgery,” he said unsurely. “I am a little bit scared. I, maybe, I don’t know. If I ride good I won’t get surgery.”
Despite the situation he is in with the shoulder, Vieira has been a bull rider full of laughter and joy during his fifth season on tour. Vieira even used his tightly wrapped free arm to high-five Rasmussen after he rode Fire & Smoke for 88.25 points during the 15/15 Bucking Battle in Laughlin, Nevada, two weeks ago.
“He is funny all the time,” Eguchi said. “I think that helps him.”
It is why when asked if he is nervous about coming up short of his first World Championship, Vieira just laughs and shrugs.
“No pressure. Nothing,” he said. “I am relaxed to ride the bulls. The shoulder is hurt, but this year is good for me. I am concentrating on a World Championship for this year. It is good for my family, friends and everyone.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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