By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Jose Vitor Leme is ready for his mulligan.
The 2020 World Champion had a less than ideal start to his world title defense thanks to a broken right ankle he sustained attempting to ride his first bull of the season on Jan. 16.
Leme told PBR.com on Monday morning he expects to return to competition this coming Friday and Saturday at the Can-Am Invitational in Fort Worth, Texas, after sitting out for five weeks because of the injury.
The 24-year-old rode two practice bulls Sunday at home in Decatur, Texas.
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“It was good,” Leme said. “I’m happy to return to work. I went to the doctor this morning to take another X-ray (to be sure), but I will go to Cowtown.”
Leme said he felt only a little bit of pain, and he has been advised to wear either a brace or tape his ankle before riding this weekend in Fort Worth.
“I feel little pain on the first one, but not too bad,” Leme said. “I think it is time to be back. The doctor said I can start to ride again, but he recommended I use a brace or tape it. I will try to tape it.”
Leme’s return to the practice pen also came eight days after he and his wife, Amanda, celebrated the birth of their son, Theodoro. Jose Vitor is happy to know his first event away from his son will only be a 45-minute drive.
“Oh man, being a father is awesome,” he said. “It is hard to describe how good it is.”
Leme also joked that his sleep schedule is different these days, thanks to Theodoro, but it is all “for good reasons.”
He said in January that one blessing of his injury was that he would be home for the birth of his son.
“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.”
Fans can watch Round 1 on Friday night on RidePass at 9 p.m. ET. CBS Sports Network will carry the action from the first round on Saturday at 10:30 p.m. ET.
Leme will get another week off after Fort Worth with the Unleash The Beast on break during the first weekend of March before the premier series heads back indoors in Glendale, Arizona, on March 12-14 with the PBR Built Ford Tough Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires. March 12 in Glendale will be the conclusion of the Del Rio event that was postponed because of inclement weather.
Leme broke his ankle during the season-opener in Ocala, Florida, when Dirty Sancho bucked him off in 2.75 seconds. The reigning World Champion opted not to undergo surgery, and he was originally projected to be back on March 2, so his return is a few days earlier than expected.
The 2017 PBR World Finals event winner only had to miss three UTB events because of the broken ankle. Two of the five weeks Leme had to sit out wound up being open dates in the schedule. Last weekend’s event in Pecos, Texas, was canceled because of inclement weather.
Leme missed four premier series events last season – two because of broken ribs and two because of COVID-19 contact tracing – and none of that slowed him down, and he does not expect the ankle to be an issue.
He is only 326.5 points behind world leader Cooper Davis and has nine months to make up ground and attempt to join Silvano Alves as the second rider in PBR history to win back-to-back world titles.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
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