By: Justin Felisko
OCALA, Fla. – Jose Vitor Leme was sitting a few rows behind the CBS Sports Network booth on Sunday afternoon with a pair of crutches to his side when the X-ray image of his broken right ankle flashed onto the big screen inside the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion.
In-arena announcers Matt West and Clint Adkins informed the Ocala, Florida, fan base that the reigning World Champion would be out of the remainder of the competition, but that did not stop those in attendance to give Leme a proud salute.
Leme slowly picked up his chin and gave a small thank you wave to the crowd. The last place Leme expected to be on Sunday was sitting in the bleachers watching the remainder of the PBR Monster Energy Invitational.
However, Dirty Sancho changed Leme’s plans for the first two months of the season when he bucked him off in 2.75 seconds on Saturday afternoon, snapping Leme’s right ankle in the process.
“You never expect to start the first ride getting hurt,” Leme said with the help of Paulo Crimber translating Sunday morning. “I went back to Brazil after I won the world title, spent time with my family, and I came back and started training and getting on bulls to prepare for this.”
Leme has not decided completely, but he is likely to elect to not get surgery on his ankle and instead let his broken fibula heal on its own.
According to Leme, he will be out of competition for roughly eight weeks without surgery. He could cut that down to potentially four weeks with surgery.
“I haven’t decided completely, but I am 90% I won’t get surgery,” Leme said. “I will be out eight weeks, but only miss six events, I think. I never have had surgery before. and I don’t want to put metal in my body.”
Leme is also looking forward to having some time at home with his soon-to-arrive baby boy. Leme’s wife, Amanda, is due on February 19, and Jose Vitor is looking forward to spending time with their eventual newborn. Extra time with Theodore is one silver lining of his broken ankle, Leme said with a smile.
“I thought it was going to be a good start this year, but everything happens for a reason,” Leme said. “I will find the good thing of this deal and turn this into a positive. This will keep me home with my son. If I did get surgery, I would be out four weeks and maybe would have to leave my son at home.”
Leme also knows that with the new Unleash The Beast event format, as well as the addition of points available at the World Finals, that he has plenty of time to get healthy and still make a run at defending his World Championship and becoming the second rider all-time to win consecutive titles.
One rider can earn a maximum of 2,160 world points at the 2021 PBR World Finals.
Leme missed four premier series events last season – two because of broken ribs and two because of COVID-19 contact tracing – and he still was able to have a dominant season, so Leme knows he does not need to worry just yet about his current setback despite the disappointment he has to be injured.
“This time the points are way bigger than last year when I won the championship,” Leme concluded. “The way the points system is now, there is plenty of time.”
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