Champion finds precious metal

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LAS VEGAS Every athlete knows that performing well doesn’t always translate into wins.

Richmond Champion has that figured out after he picked up just his third paycheck of this year’s National Finals Rodeo. He matched moves with Three Hills Rodeo’s Tarnished Silver for 85.5 points and finished fourth during Thursday’s eighth round.

“I feel like I’m having the best NFR I’ve ever had riding-wise,” said Champion, an eight-time qualifier from Stevensville, Montana. “(Wednesday) night, I just got beat, but it brought up a good change for my equipment – it was nothing big, but some little adjustment to my rigging.”

He placed on the opening two nights, then was blanked among the top spots for five straight rounds before collecting $12,877 Thursday. He’s made just $40,000 since arriving in Sin City, but he’s seeing the positives when he can.

“This is the first time ever that I won money right off the bat and didn’t keep winning,” he said. “I’m used to not winning money early and just building into it, and then I just don’t stop winning. This year it’s, ‘I’m here,’ and then nothing. That makes you want to play mind games and start thinking about stuff you need to do.”

Fellow bareback rider Caleb Bennett offered the idea of rigging adjustments, and it paid off. Tarnished Silver was part of the eliminator pen, the hardest-to-ride horses at the NFR. By scoring a nice payday, Champion increased his yearly earnings to $151,404.

“The E pens have always been my jam, whether I like it or not,” said Champion, who attended Tarleton State University on a rodeo scholarship. “It’s my kind of pen, and there’s always confidence when we come to that.

“You’re not worried about what anyone else is going to do. You’ve got to do your job, and you’ve got to do it right.”

There are just two nights remaining on the 2023 season. The bareback riders get a reprieve in Friday’s round with the hopper pen of horses, the group of broncs that allow the cowboys to show off. They will conclude this edition of ProRodeo’s Super Bowl with the TV pen, the most electric and showy horses in rodeo.  

“We’ve got two more good ones left,” Champion said. “I’m just going to let them roll. I have nothing to lose.

“I feel like every year you get toward the end of the week, and everybody’s in their grove in the locker room, and you realize it’s bittersweet because it’s coming to an end. You’re not going to see these guys in that setting for a while and possibly not see them there ever again. Rarely do you ever have the same locker room. It’s been super fun. We build each other up, and we break each other down when we need it. It’s just a special experience in there.”


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