By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Wallace de Oliveira has found a new way to celebrate when he hits the always-desired 8-second mark.
The 41-year-old first tries his best to get to safety. Once he is in a secure location in the arena, he then pulls out his imaginary walker and begins to move slowly forward like an old man. It is a celebration that is all too fitting, and one that started thanks to Matt Merritt, the Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour’s exclusive entertainer.
The battle-tested bull rider then cracks a smile underneath his bull riding helmet, one that has also taken its own fair share of scars over the years.
Oliveira now may have $35,000 worth of reasons to smile later this weekend in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, following his tie for fifth place in Round 1 of the Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Finals Friday night.
The No. 2-ranked bull rider in the Velocity Tour standings rode Blessed for 87 points inside the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center to earn 2.5 points toward the world and Velocity Tour standings.
Oliveira shortened the gap between himself and Velocity No. 1 Jose Vitor Leme to 5.34 points after Party Animal bucked Leme off in 6.47 seconds.
The Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour champion wins a $35,000 bonus, and receives an automatic bid to the 2020 PBR World Finals in Arlington, Texas, on Nov. 12-15 if he does not qualify through the PBR’s world standings.
“If I win the Velocity (title), it is going to be a really important moment in my career because the best bull riders are here, and I’m 41 years old competing equally with them,” Oliveira told PBR.com via phone late Friday night.
Oliveira, the No. 43-ranked bull rider in the world, has the opportunity to set a new PBR record as the oldest PBR World Finals qualifier if he can lock up a bid for the 2020 World Finals on Saturday night. Oliveira is in a strong position to make history, as he is only 8.5 points behind No. 41 Marcus Mast, who is holding the last World Finals spot in the world standings and bucked off in Round 1.
If Oliveira is unable to qualify for the World Finals through the world standings, he can also qualify for the World Finals through the Velocity Tour’s wild card system. The top two riders in the Velocity Tour standings that are not qualified for the World Finals via the world standings following the competition on Saturday night earn wild card bids to Arlington, as do the top two finishers at the Velocity Tour Finals (as long as they finish in the Top 5). If every rider in the Top 5 has already qualified for the World Finals, then the wild card berths will go to the next eligible riders in the Velocity Tour Standings.
Kyler Oliver is one rider that may snag a wild card berth on Saturday night. Oliver finished in fourth place in Round 1 by riding Dirty Sancho for 87.5 points.
The 21-year-old from Roy, Utah, is ranked 21st in the Velocity Tour standings, but the three riders ahead of him in the event standings – Mason Taylor, Lucas Divino and Keyshawn Whitehorse – are already locks for the World Finals.
There were nine qualified rides in Round 1.
The 2020 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Finals conclude on Saturday night. Fans can tune in to RidePass at 8:30 p.m. ET to see which rider walks out of Sioux Falls with the Velocity Tour Championship.
Oliveira has not been to the PBR World Finals since 2016 when he was a 37-year-old rookie and finished a career-best 13th in the world standings. Oliveira was even the No. 1 bull rider in the world early that season because of a victory in Chicago, which is the only premier series victory of his career.
He then broke his clavicle in the 2017 season-opener in New York City. Two months later, Oliveira tore his groin in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, at a Touring Pro Division event, and he struggled to regain the form he had in 2016 once he returned to competition during the summer run.
Oliveira has not finished higher than 73rd in the world standings in the last three seasons, and this is the closest he has been to a return to the World Finals since 2016.
“I’m in a good moment in life right now, and I’m in love (with) riding bulls,” Oliveira said.
Oliveira was a relative unknown to PBR fans until he rode King Buck for 86.25 points at the 2015 World Finals, his only ride in three attempts as an alternate at the Thomas & Mack Center.
He had competed at a handful of PBR events in 2008 and 2009 before making his premier series debut in 2010. He went 4-for-8 in three premier series events that season before returning to Brazil until 2015.
Oliveira explained in 2016 that part of his reason for returning to Brazil in the previous decade was that his family was homesick. He and his wife Ludmar have two kids, Gabriel and Luana.
The Goiania, Brazil, native has never wavered in his love for bull riding, and he has no plans on retiring anytime soon.
Oliveira is hoping the 2020 World Finals is one of a few more qualifications in his career.
“While I am physically and mentally well, I am going to ride for another three years,” Oliveira concluded.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andre Silva/Bull Stock Media
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