LAS VEGAS – By Ted Harbin – There is no buckle to go with it, but the title is still prestigious.
Richmond Champion is the reserve world champion bareback rider, and he earned it on the backs of the best bucking horses in ProRodeo. He placed in seven Wrangler National Finals Rodeo go-rounds – including two round wins – and placed second in the average, riding 10 horses for 847.5 cumulative points.
“In ’14, I was second in the average and third in the world, so this is one up on that, and we are one step closer,” said Champion of The Woodlands, Texas. “Tim (O’Connell, the world champion) rode outstanding. Last year he ran away with things, and this year we put the heat on him.
“That’s what we came here to do, and I take my hat off to him because of what he did.”
Champion earned his seventh go-round check during Saturday’s 10th go-round, riding Hi Lo Pro Rodeo’s Wilson Sanchez for 86.5 points. That was good enough to tie for fourth in the round, worth $8,885. In all, he earned $167,314 in Sin City, $54,577 of which came in his average payout. He finished the 2017 campaign with $268,511.
“To place in seven out of 10, that’s what I came here to do, to be consistent and take advantage,” he said. “I’m just blessed and super thankful, because I can’t believe it’s over. The time just flew by.”
The NFR is no place for the timid. Bareback riders know they must handle all the challenges that come their way, with the biggest being the most athletic bucking horses in the game. Throw in the atmosphere and the big money that is available for 10 straight nights, and there’s a lot that can happen between the ears.
It is conquering those challenges that helps define the winners.
“Pressure isn’t given to you,” Champion said. “You earn pressure, and that’s something we all crave. This place creates pressure, and to see Tim go out there and put 10 rides together is amazing. For me to be that close on his tail is pretty awesome, and I look forward to next year.”
This season marked the third time he has earned the right to compete in ProRodeo’s grand championship. That’s pretty good for a man who just turned 25 on Saturday. He got to celebrate with 14 friends as they chased this dream in the sport they all love.
“We are all thankful to be here,” he said. “The comradery in that room, the way everyone showed up this week, is really awesome. It really doesn’t get any better than this.”