LAS VEGAS – Richmond Champion makes his living riding bucking horses, and he’s pretty good at it, too.
On Saturday night, he put a cap on his sixth season in ProRodeo by riding Picket Pro Rodeo’s Faded Night for 88.5 points to finish in a tie for second in the final round of this year’s NFR. That was worth more than $18,000. More importantly, he moved up to finish fifth in the all-important average, adding another $22,846.
He finished his fourth NFR with $123,526 in earnings and completed the year with $243,345. He placed fifth in the final bareback riding world standings.
“For the NFR that it was and the way things went, to be leaving here with that money in front of me is not what I expected at Round 5,” said Champion, who placed in six rounds. “I was sweating in Round 5. Last night, I relaxed a little bit, then today, it was going to be what it is going to be. It was awesome.
“You put in a solid year of work, and you come here and want to perform. It was a tough year. My finals emulated my season, which was hit and miss. I was drawing cold. I didn’t draw right. I got on 12 head, and that makes me happy. That makes me the ironman of the bareback riders.”
On two nights, he was awarded re-rides. One was because his first horse failed to buck up to snuff; the second was because his horse slipped. He placed just once in the first four rounds, but then he turned on the gas in the second half of the NFR, earning money in five of the last six nights.
“It’s always momentum,” said Champion of The Woodlands, Texas. “When your buddies are saying you get better every year, it makes you want to keep getting better every year.”
There’s also a comradery that comes with being one of the top bareback riders in the game. The 15 men that advanced to this year’s championship have a tight bond. Though he has yet to win that coveted world championship, the Texan is just as proud of his fellow bareback riders.
“It’s a special night,” he said “It is good to see Steven Dent split the average championship. I gave him a hug. To see Tim (O’Connell) cap it off for three (straight world titles) was great. We are all so tight in there. There are tears and all kinds of stuff going on in the locker room. You get them out of the way early so you can celebrate.
“It means a lot to every one of us. We’ve been working at it for years.”
The work is done with passion. Rodeo is not an easy game, and there are tens of thousands of miles traveled in a regular season with just the hopes of advancing to the City of Lights for ProRodeo’s grand championship.
Champion has earned every accolade he receives, and he proved it again over the last 10 nights of the 2018 season.