PUEBLO, Colo. – Fabiano Vieira may be afraid of needles, but the 32-year-old is not scared to put in the time and effort necessary to keep his right shoulder healthy this season.
Throughout the week leading up to a Built Ford Tough Series event, Vieira will take part of his day to rehab his right shoulder, which he first dislocated last May, through a series of resistance band exercises in his Decatur, Texas, home.
The plan isn’t foolproof, and there are plenty of doubters that believe Vieira was naïve and foolish for not getting offseason surgery to repair the right shoulder that arguably prevented him from winning his first World Championship last season.
Regardless, Vieira tried to quiet his doubters once again this past weekend by going 3-for-3 to win the Fresno Invitational with a total of 515 event points.
Vieira more than doubled his total point total with the victory and moved into the seventh position of the world standings after starting the weekend in 18th. He still trails world leader Matt Triplett by 1,200 points, but he is right in the mix for a potential world title.
“It is in the hand of God, whether I win or not,” he said. “If I don’t win it, everything is still good. I am just happy to be riding.”
The win doesn’t solidify the fact that Vieira no longer has question marks, but the Perola, Brazil, bull rider is continuing to move his free arm more freely than at the end of the 2014 season.
He is up to fifth on the BFTS with a 50 percent (15-for-30) riding average a year after he led the tour with a 54.55 percent average.
On Sunday, Vieira was able to select a bull in the championship-round draft that didn’t put too much strain on his free arm and he responded by riding Breakdown for 88.25 points to eventually seal himself his first victory of 2015.
It was his highest-scored ride since earning 88.25 points on Fire & Smoke in Laughlin, Nevada, last September.
He previously rode Dirt Devil for 83 points in the second round and Slingshot for 84 points in Round 1.
“I think I am riding good now with my shoulder,” he said. “I am doing physical therapy on my shoulder in my house to ride better. I pull resistance bands and I stretch my shoulder.”
Vieira was the latest bull rider to receive some championship round advice from three-time World Champion Silvano Alves. Vieira had listed Mr. Bull and Percolator as his first two desired selections and Alves then told him that Breakdown would be a decent fallback option.
Therefore, Vieira selected Breakdown once Triplett and Brady Sims selected Mr. Bull and Percolator, respectively.
“I loveeee this bull,” Vieira said with a big grin and his event belt buckle in his right hand. “I watched J.B. (Mauney) ride this bull (90.75 points) in Vegas and thought he would be a good fit for me.”
It was also the second time Alves has assisted Vieira in the championship round this season.
Alves helped Vieira, who has ridden two of his last three Built Ford Tough Championship Round bulls, select HoHoHo in Anaheim, California, when Vieira rode the bull for 86 pints to place second in the event and earn 300 points toward the world standings.
“Silvano is very, very smart at picking the bulls and he helps me pick,” Vieira said.
Alves may not have won his third World Championship last year if not for Vieira struggling with his shoulder during the 2014 World Finals.
The 27-year-old is happy to see Vieira healthy once again, adding that he believes the shoulder is no longer a big factor as last year.
“When he rides the bull, he may be a little scared sometimes,” Alves said. “For this year, compared to last year, he rides different sometimes. I don’t think he has problems now. He looks better.”
Vieira explained that his confidence is slowly returning about his shoulder, and the victory certainly adds to it.
He added that having two full months off after the Finals really helped him rehab the injury and strengthen the muscles that had become weakened throughout his push for the 2014 world title.
“Those past two months were good for my shoulder,” he said. “I am no longer worried. No more. It is good. I am careful, but my shoulder is good.”
Does he think this win proves he can still compete at an elite level like before the injury?
“I don’t know,” Vieira responded. “I think I can (prove) it to anyone.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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