PUEBLO, Colo. – Rubens Barbosa has a habit of always fidgeting with the PBR World Finals ring that he wears on his right hand every day.
Barbosa was twiddling his ring, which is awarded to every PBR rider when he qualifies for his first career World Finals, during Friday afternoon’s groundbreaking for the PBR Sports Institute.
As Barbosa gathered up some dirt in his shovel and emptied the soil onto the ground, his World Finals ring glittered amidst the hot 90-degree Southern Colorado skyline.
So too did the 33-year-old’s salt- and-pepper-colored hair.
Barbosa – the No. 15 rider in the world standings – understands the only way he is going to be competitive at this year’s Built Ford Tough World Finals is if he continues to rehab and train during the week in Decatur, Texas.
Getting to the Finals may not be any harder than when he first received his World Finals ring in 2011, but his body is nowhere near where it once was when he claimed the PBR Rookie of the Year award that same season.
“Getting to the Finals is not different at all,” Barbosa said with the help of Miriaham Garcia translating. “It is the same. Unfortunately, I had to go through all of those injuries. So that is what makes it harder or more difficult to make it. I am riding the exact same way. Physically, I maybe am not the same as a rookie.”
Barbosa has broken both of his legs, tore up his shoulders and is currently competing with a broken right ankle.
It is why Barbosa spoke highly of the PBR’s plan for the PBR Sports Institute Friday as he made a visit to PBR headquarters.
“When I was younger, obviously my body was younger and I hadn’t been hurt yet,” Barbosa said. “Now I am riding with a lot of injuries. I have broken both my legs and I have back problems because of that. I am riding with a broken ankle. My body is different. The stuff I do now – agility workouts help my reflexes – helps. When you go to an event you only get on four bulls tops. That is not enough time training wise to be fit. I enjoy going to the gym to stretch and get in condition to compete.”
PBR CEO Sean Gleason said during Friday’s press conference one of the long-term goals of the PBR Sports Performance Institute will be to produce more champion bull riders of all ages and backgrounds.
“In the sport of bull riding, buckles signify accomplishment,” Gleason said. “We award buckles for event wins, Rookie of the Year and the ultimate buckle is the gold buckle at the end of the year – the PBR World Championship. As we put shovels in the ground today, and we bring the PBR Sports Performance Institute a step closer to life and reality, I am confident many buckles will be earned because of their time in Pueblo, Colorado.”
Barbosa has been training frequently at Fit-N-Wise Rehabilitation and Performance Center in Decatur in preparation for qualifying for his fourth World Finals later this year.
The Iaciara, Brazil, native also wants to be stronger for the PBR Global Cup on Nov. 9-11 in Edmonton, Alberta, after he was the last rider to earn a guaranteed spot for Team Brazil last weekend in Nashville, Tennessee.
“My will is the same, but my body isn’t reacting the same because I am not 18 years old,” Barbosa said.
Barbosa has struggled since breaking his ankle inside the bucking chute in April attempting to ride Moleek.
Dr. Tandy Freeman and the PBR Sports Medicine Team recommended surgery or an ankle brace to Barbosa, who has decided to not opt for surgery.
The PBR sports medicine team offers the best care at every Built Ford Tough Series event and offers rehab, training and recovery programs for its bull riders to perform while at home or on the road.
“If I do surgery, I would be out for a long period of time,” Barbosa said. “So I have been riding with a brace and I am not in pain when I ride. It is getting better.”
The results have not been positive for Barbosa, though.
Barbosa, who broke the same ankle in 2015, has since gone 0-for-7 on the Built Ford Tough Series and 0-for-9 overall.
“After 4 seconds I get lost,” Barbosa said. “I kind of am lost on the bull. The first four I am fine, but after that I am not. I have been training on that specifically for the last week.”
Barbosa is 13-for-46 (28.26 percent) in 17 events and only needs five more qualified rides this year to set a new career-high. His previous best was 17 rides (2016).
Barbosa will look to turn things around when he flies to California on Saturday for the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event in Salinas, California, at 6 p.m. PT.
Also tentatively competing in Salinas is No. 7 Fabiano Vieira, No. 10 Cody Teel, No. 18 Claudio Montanha Jr., No. 19 Marco Eguchi, No. 22 Dener Barbosa, No. 23 Luciano de Castro, No. 29 Koal Livingston, No. 30 Ramon de Lima and No. 31 Emilio Resende.
Barbosa still believes he can finish the season strong and post the first Top-20 finish of his career.
“I am going to train a lot harder now,” Barbosa concluded. “I want to strengthen everything so I can get there prepared.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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