By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – It was almost eight months ago that three-time World Champion Silvano Alves lay helpless inside Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Missouri.
Alves’s kidney had been ruptured into multiple pieces hours earlier when Southern Style stepped on him inside JQH Arena, and doctors were bracing for the possibility that the legendary bull rider may lose his kidney altogether.
A month earlier, Alves had just surpassed 400 qualified rides on the premier series, and he spoke confidently about the possibility of joining 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi, 2004 World Champion Mike Lee and two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney in the 500-ride club.
His immediate future, though, was in doubt in Springfield, but within due time doctors were confident they would be able to save his kidney. Alves was released from the hospital a week later, and he returned home happy knowing that his career was likely not in jeopardy even if his 2019 season had ended.
Alves made PBR history this past weekend at the PBR Cooper Tires Invitational, presented by Ariat, when he passed two-time World Champion Chris Shivers for the fifth-most qualified rides on the premier series since the PBR’s inaugural 1994 season.
The Pilar do Sul, Brazil native rode Newsom for 84.25 points and career ride No. 413 in Round 2 on Sunday afternoon.
Alves is 16 rides behind Valdiron de Oliveira (429) for fourth all time, and he will look to continue his march up the rankings this weekend at the PBR Lucas Oil Invitational, presented by U.S Border Patrol. The event concludes Sunday at 2 p.m. ET live on CBS national television.
The ride was only Alves’s ninth since that fateful night in Springfield last season, but he does believe his goals of reaching 500 qualified rides, and maybe 600, are still in the realm of possibility.
“Yes sir. Of course. I am going to try hard for this,” Alves said. “I think before in my career I would pass 500 or 600. I know this is a dream to break this record. Without, it is still a great career. My focus is to ride every bull every single day to break all the records.”
Alves could reach the 500 club in the next three years if he averages at least 29 rides per season.
Alves’s bid at a record-setting fourth world title came to an end in 2015 when he broke his left hip and underwent surgery. He returned later that season and finished 12th in the world standings.
The ruptured kidney then was the second time in four years that Alves had to sit out multiple months because of an injury.
The difference with the kidney, of course, was that this this time Alves’s career was in jeopardy.
“It was so hard because I had passed 400 bulls and I had a lot of confidence,” Alves reflected this past weekend. “I was riding really well, like a couple of years ago. A month later, the bull stepped on me and my career was almost over. I think about a lot of things in my head, but I have had faith in God.”
The 32-year-old has been a shell of his former champion self, and he has struggled mightily in 2020. Alves is only 9-for-28 (32.14%), and this past weekend was the first time since the season-opener that he has posted two qualified rides. Alves has been competing via World Champion exemptions and is ranked No. 49 in the world. Prior to breaking his hip, Alves was close to a 60% career bull rider.
“It is hard not just for me, but for all of the bull riders,” Alves said. “Sometimes we struggle. For me, I struggle sometimes, and some days I am not really confident. My leg, my ribs, but sometimes, it is not my leg, it is my head. I can ride any bulls here in my head. I need to keep going with my head up and I can do all of the stuff. I need to try to act like old Silvano again. I ride practice bulls and all this stuff. I get outside on the ranch and get movement. That’s it.”
Three-time World Champion Adriano Moraes said earlier this year he believes Alves still has time to turn things around, and win a record-breaking fourth world title before he retires.
“Well I was expecting, and I’m still expecting Silvano to be the guy and win one more title,” Moraes said. “Sometimes I doubt. Sometimes I don’t.”
Alves spent time practicing with the PBR’s best right during the PBR’s 41-day hiatus amidst the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak – Jose Vitor Leme.
The 10-time PBR World Finals qualifier wanted to get on some practice bulls, and he had seen that Leme, who also lives in Decatur, Texas, was back in the pen following his three broken ribs.
“It is hard for us to stay home all the time,” Alves said. “You can’t do nothing more. You work at home all day and then look outside and think the same. I call Jose and say, ‘Let’s go ride some bulls for practice,’ and he said, ‘Yeah. Come here and help me, or I come to your house and help you.’
“He learn from me a little bit and I learn from him a little bit. We are just riding bulls trying to stay healthy. Every guy stay great for next competition.”
Alves and Leme were in the same social distancing functional group this past weekend at the Lazy E Arena.
Leme went 3-for-3 to win his fourth event of the season, extending his lead atop the world standings to 235 points as he tries to join Alves in the PBR record books as a World Champion.
While neither rider went into full details of what they are helping each other with, Leme did say it is a dream come true to train alongside a legend like Alves.
“It is certainly a very cool thing, to practice and to be with a guy you have always been a fan of. This is crazy for me,” Leme said. “Five years ago, if someone told me that this would happen I would say that you are crazy, that would be impossible, and today seeing dreams like this come true is very rewarding. I am having the opportunity to learn more each day.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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