Vieira Takes Small Step Up Big Mountain

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Joao Ricardo Vieira stood inside the PBR sports medicine room inside the KFC Yum! Center on Saturday night and turned to his left.

Vieira then pointed at his left thigh and leg and showed the damage from his wreck last weekend against Buck Even in Tucson, Arizona.

A massive black and blue discoloration radiated from the top of his thigh and trailed down and around his sprained left MCL.

Other than his severely discolored leg, the good news for Vieira was that he was able to walk around and put much more pressure on his leg compared to last Saturday night when he left the Tucson Convention Center with a leg brace and a significant limp.

The even greater news this weekend was that Vieira came through with an 8-second qualified ride.

It wasn’t one that immediately was going to solve the No. 3-ranked bull rider’s woes of late, but his 82.5-point ride away from his hand on Little Waspy could potentially be a building block for Vieira as he desperately tries to regain his earlier season form.

“This week, I feel better right now and am starting to work again,” Vieira said with the help of Valdiron de Oliveira translating. “I am starting to feel strong. Now I am not 100 percent, but I am around 70 percent.”

Vieira also shrugged when asked if it was an added confidence boost to get a bull rode away from his hand.

“Yes, but I don’t care,” he responded. “Either way I ride good. A couple of weeks, I have just been hurt.”

Injuries certainly stacked up on Vieira in the past two months as he spiraled from the world No. 1 spot to 1,397.5 points behind current leader J.B. Mauney.

Vieira began August 2-for-5 before competing at the PBR Brazil Finals in Barretos, Brazil, where he injured his right knee and shin.

That appeared to coincide with his struggles on the BFTS as he has since gone just 5-for-16, when including his Friday night ride in Louisville.

The 31.25 percent riding average is far below his career BFTS average of 46.13 percent.

“A couple of weeks ago I have been hurt every week and every week,” Vieira said. “I came back, but it has been hard to come back and ride good.”

Vieira also sustained a sprained riding wrist, bruised left thigh and the left MCL sprain in the weeks following Barretos.

While the injuries didn’t cost him an entire BFTS event, they began to add up on the 30-year-old, who had appeared mentally defeated during the final regular-season events.

He had concluded the BFTS regular season 38-for-81 (46.91 percent).

Round 1 winner Robson Palermo thinks maybe this ride is the right kind of medicine Vieira needed to shake off his rust.

“Joao feels good now,” Palermo said. “He rode his first bull and that bull turned back right. It wasn’t a 45-point bull, but he rode his bull and got his confidence. (Saturday) he hopes to continue like that. It is good to get his confidence back.”

Vieira now has a chance to record two qualified rides at any PBR event for the first time since the beginning of September.

He has drawn Chantilly Lace in Round 2, which can be seen on PBR LIVE on starting at 7 p.m. E.T.

If he can cover Chantilly Lace, as well as his championship round bull, Vieira would have his first three-ride performance since winning Last Cowboy Standing in May.

It also could potentially net him the BlueDEF Finals event title, which gives a rider 200 world points and $25,000.

The 200 points could be huge for Vieira as he tries to gain ground on Mauney, who was bucked off by Back in Black on Friday night.

“It is very good,” Vieira said. “If I can ride three bulls, that will help a lot mentally. It is very important for me to get back to riding good again.”

Getting back on track before the World Finals could be a victory in itself for Vieira.

“It is not easy to win the World Finals,” Vieira said. “I want to go to the Finals and ride good. That is more important to me. I don’t know because J.B. is in front and is No. 1. It is going to be hard to catch him, but I am going to ride and relax.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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