By: Justin Felisko
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A little under two years from Lucas Divino’s anniversary of his Unleash The Beast debut, and the 26-year-old had the Caterpillar Classic event buckle in his hands last weekend.
Divino leaned against the concrete wall of the Sprint Cener and smiled.
This moment was supposed to happen a long time ago.
It was one that he surely thought would have occurred after he made his debut at the 2018 Ty Murray Invitational with a 3-for-4 showing and rides aboard Alligator Arms – the bull two-time World Champion Jess Lockwood rode for his first career victory – and Magic Train – the bull Jose Vitor Leme rode to win the 2017 World Finals.
Divino needed 37 premier series events to finally reach the top of the mountain on the Unleash The Beast. Never would he have thought the victory would come despite a nagging broken riding hand.
“I never thought it would take this long because we always expect to win quick, but it happened, and I am really happy it happened now. It is great,” Divino said with the help of Paulo Crimber translating.
Divino earned his first victory with a career-best 91-point ride on Medicine Man in the championship round. The ride was also his first 90 of his career, and it came on the heels of him winning Round 2 with 88.5 points on The Punisher.
He was confident heading into the championship round draft that he could ride Medicine Man, and selected the Hart Cattle bovine athlete with the first pick.
“I knew I had a really, really good bull, but he can sometimes be really bad in the chute,” Divino said. “I just trusted God, and I didn’t worry really close about anything. It worked out.”
After failing to qualify for the 2018 PBR World Finals in limited action over the second half of the season, Divino took a step forward in 2019. He finished runner-up in Kansas City and at Last Cowboy Standing at Cheyenne Frontier Days before ultimately finishing 19th in the world standings.
Divino said that he not only needed time to adjust to the higher caliber of bull in the United States, but he also needed time to assimilate into the American culture, and make the U.S. feel more like home.
He has gained confidence in his personal life, and in his bull riding.
“For all guys, they have a time to win and to buck off,” Divino said. “Now I am prepared more to win, and for me to have a good time with my family and friends. I think about everything. Not just bull riding. I am really happy I have had good bull rides and good bulls.”
Divino, who has improved on his English tremendously thanks to his girlfriend, Taylor Ayers, had hoped to crack into the Top 10 of the world standings in 2020 and contend for a world title. However, a broken right riding hand suffered on Dec. 21 at the Kearney, Nebraska, Touring Pro Division event was a nuisance in January, and he had to sit out three events.
With a victory under his belt, though, Divino has surged to No. 10 in the world standings, and there is a big opportunity for him to make a move up the rankings during the final six UTB events of the first half.
The stout Brazilian heads into this weekend’s Bad Boy Mowdown as arguably the hottest rider in the PBR when you consider that injuries have knocked two-time World Champion Lockwood (six months) and world leader Leme (week-to-week) out of competition.
While Divino has ways to go to match the level of the top two riders in the world, he does believe he has the ability to make a surge and put himself closer to the gold-buckle favorites.
Divino is 11-for-18 (61.11%) in five Unleash The Beast events, and has finished in the Top 2 at the last two events. He has a career riding percentage of 37.61% on the premier series.
“Of course, when you ride your bulls, you have more confidence,” Divino said. “This is happening with me right now. I have more confidence in myself to ride bulls because before I would be scared if bulls turn left. I am not scared anymore. I can ride bulls left or right. I am ready for all kind of bulls.”
Divino has ridden six of his last seven bulls heading into his Round 1 meeting against Ground Assault (1-0, UTB) Friday night at Simmons Bank Arena (RidePass, 8:45 p.m. ET). He will try to take a chunk out of Leme’s 417-point lead on him in the standings.
“There is still a lot of stuff to happen still, but I am going to continue working as hard as I have been working right now, and I just want to get to Vegas and to raise that cup,” Divino said. “I think I can do it. I think I am capable of winning a World Championship.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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