LAS VEGAS – Richmond Champion is enjoying himself at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo even though he’s not had the week he envisioned.
“It bums me out to say that it’s almost Round 7,” said Champion, the No. 12-ranked bareback rider in the world standings from The Woodlands, Texas. “We’re already past the halfway point of the NFR, so it’s almost over.”
If the rest of the week goes like Tuesday did, he won’t want it to end. During the sixth round of ProRodeo’s grand finale, he matched moves with Three Hills Rodeo’s Big Show for 85 points to finish in a tie for second place, pocketing $18,192 in the process.
“This is the third time since January of this year that I’ve had that horse,” he said. “I knew size-wise she would be on the upper end as far as visual. She feels good, but I’ve never had her stall out in the arena like she did tonight. I’ve never been able to show her up that much.”
The big bay horse continued to jump and kick, but she stayed virtually in one spot for a good portion of Champion’s ride. That allowed the judges to see the cowboy’s controlled spur ride with the animal’s bucking motion.
“She had a phenomenal night,” he said. “We didn’t buck her the first time these horses were out, and knowing I had her, I was pretty excited and pretty confident. It couldn’t have gone any better.”
The Texan has now pocketed $20,308 in Las Vegas and pushed his season earnings to $99,477. The best part for him comes in knowing there are four more rounds to go and he has a chance to increase his annual salary by $100,000 if things go his way.
“The last three rounds have been unreal as far as bareback riding goes,” Champion said. “Before the round, it was just so cool in the locker room. I was sitting around and watching everybody tape, and everybody had the same think on their mind and the same little grin in the corner of their mouth like, ‘Let’s go spur stuff.’
“That’s why we’re here.”
In bareback riding, cowboys spur from the front of the horse’s shoulders back to their rigging, then return and do so in time with the animal’s bucking motion. The better the spur ride, the better the score.
Champion has been doing this professional for four years, and he’s turned himself into one of the very best in the business. But the rodeo trail keeps him away from home from his family many months out of the year. Having this 10 days in Las Vegas gives him a chance to reconnect with his parents, Greg and Lori, and his brother, Doug.
“It’s awesome to have Dougie, my mom and dad and my girlfriend here and all the friends that come out for a couple of days,” Champion said. “This sport is awesome. Having them here is a healthy distraction from the thoughts of what we do every night, and it’s just good to see everybody.
“This atmosphere is electric. Everybody is amped, and everybody can feel it. It’s good to know my family’s here to support me.”
And he wants to continue to put on a show for four more nights in the Nevada desert.