By: Justin Felisko
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Reigning World Champion Jose Vitor Leme was sitting under the tented outdoor locker room Saturday afternoon on the USS Lexington flight deck with sweat pouring down his back.
Leme had just led Team South Point to a second-place finish at the PBR Air Force Reserve Cowboys for a Cause team bull riding competition with a 2-for-2 performance despite nearly throwing up because of how hot it was on top of the historic “Blue Ghost” aircraft carrier.
“How many (world) points did I get today?” Leme asked before taking a swig of water.
Leme was one of only two riders to go a perfect 2-for-2, winning Round 1 for 59 world points with his 90.75-point ride on Steel Wishes. Leme now has 22 90-point rides at all levels of competition, including his PBR record 18 on the Unleash The Beast.
The 25-year-old, though, was unable to push Team South Point to the event victory as his 84.25-point ride on Udder Lover was bested by Team Bad Boy Mowers’ Eli Vastbinder (84.75 points on Game Day).
Regardless, Leme once again added to his ever-growing lead in the 2021 World Championship race by exiting the USS Lexington with 67 points toward the world standings.
Leme will head into next weekend’s PBR Monster Energy Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires, in Anaheim, California, with a 586.5-point lead on No. 2 Kaique Pacheco.
“This was a great battle on the ship,” Leme said. “There are a lot of great teams. All the teams are even. It is amazing. I am excited to ride here. This is a part of my history too. This is amazing. 90-point rides are always awesome, but 90 points on a boat? That is better than 90 points in an arena.
“I am just so happy to help my team.”
It wasn’t easy by any means for the 24 riders who were riding on the USS Lexington during the charity bull riding competition.
Temperatures soared into the triple digits Saturday afternoon once the event began at 1 p.m. thanks to the humid air coming off the Gulf Coast. Even though there was a slight breeze, the riders were certainly feeling the effects of the heat, Leme admitted.
Leme, who chugged a bottle of water on the back of the bucking chutes during Round 1, nearly got sick following his last bull ride of the day as the heat began to hit him a little bit harder.
“It is so hot,” Leme said shaking his head. “This is crazy, but it is OK.”
Team Bad Boy Mowers hero Vastbinder jokingly told the other 23 riders that he got on six bulls last week at Iron Cowboy in Fort Worth, Texas, so the outdoor humidity would be no big deal.
“I was just telling them I just got on six so this ain’t nothing,” Vastbinder said with a laugh. “Shoot, I don’t know, this is pretty hot.”
Meanwhile, Conner Halverson had to get on three bulls on Saturday afternoon in Round 1, leaving himself gassed by the end of the event.
Halverson rode Tested & Bruised for 87.5 points after receiving two re-ride options in Round 1.
Halverson, though, wasn’t complaining one bit as he picked up 28 additional points toward the world standings to jump up four spots to No. 36 overall.
The 20-year-old is attempting to qualify for his first PBR World Finals.
“I have felt better,” Halverson said with a smile. “This heat is brutal, but it is just part of it. I love doing this and I am having fun. I will go drink a couple of bottle waters. Just getting points every chance I can is important.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photos courtesy of Andy Watson & Hailey Rae/Bull Stock Media
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