Joy fills O’Connell on every ride

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Tim O’Connell rides Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Network Gazer for 84 points to finish fifth in Friday’s second go-round at the National Finals Rodeo.

LAS VEGAS For the second straight night, three-time world champion Tim O’Connell earned some Las Vegas cash by placing at the National Finals Rodeo.

He rode Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Network Gazer for 84 points to finish fifth in Friday’s second go-round, earning $7,462. It’s more than $21,000 less than he had hoped, because round winners will earn nearly $29,000 each night, but he’s quite content with his spot.

“For the first time in my life, I’m actually excited to win the go-round, because my son gets in tonight, and I’m going to get him from the airport,” said O’Connell of Zwingle, Iowa. “I’m excited to see him and spend time with him.”

Family is important to the cowboy now living in Marshall, Missouri, with his wife, Sami, and their two sons, Hazen, 4, and Stratten, 7 months old. Hazen was scheduled to arrive before 10 p.m., and the other two have been here for a few days already. It was a valuable tool to be reunited with his entire clan.

Of course, he had to take care of business first, and that came with being matched with a powerful bucking machine in Network Gazer. The two battled for the entire eight seconds, with the match going toe-to-toe until the buzzer sounded. That’s when the big bay got the upper hand.

“Luckily I don’t have to ride them for 8.1; I just have to ride them for eight,” he said. “That little bobble at the end was probably more my fault. I went to finish off the last two seconds, and I think she gave me a delayed kick and swooped right, and with me being a lefty … she shoved me away from my hand.

“Things happened, but they still paid me. I’m good. I’m happy. I’m healthy. That was a strong horse for that pen, so I knew it wasn’t going to be the flashiest thing in the world until it let me be flashy, and it was just a fistfight. I’ll go fight like that all day. I like those fights.”

O’Connell missed the last month of the regular season because of a thumb injury that required surgery. He took the time necessary to heal, then went through rehabilitation to prepare for ProRodeo’s grand finale. He proved through some practice horses that he was ready for battle.

“The thumb’s good, and the body feels great,” O’Connell said. “Everything we’re doing in the mornings leading up to this is working and proving it’s working. I feel great when I get on the backs of these animals. I’m just going to keep doing my thing and keep having fun doing it.”

The proof is in the $23,524 he’s pocketed since he arrived the Nevada desert just a few days ago.


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