Five one-hundreths of a second!
For Merritt cowboy Ty Pozzobon, that’s all the time that stood between his seventh-place finish and possibly ending up third or even second this past weekend at one of the world’s biggest bullriding events.
At Madison Square Gardens in New York no less!
The occasion was the first tour stop on the Professional Bull Riders’ ‘Built Ford Tough’ Series for 2012 - a star-studded competition that brought together in one arena the top 40 bullriders on the globe and almost 100 of the meanest, most ornery mountains of beef on the North American continent.
Through five rounds spread over three days, 18,000+ rodeo fans each night in Gotham City and a nationwide TV audience on Sunday were treated to some of the most breath-taking, heart-stopping, leather-slapping, bone-crushing action that the sport of rodeo has ever offered up.
“It was crazy,” stated Pozzobon on Monday morning of this week, while waiting at JFK airport for his flight to Denver, Colorado and his next rodeo stop. “The whole arena was just packed for every performance. You don’t see many crowds like those ones in New York. They’re cheering if you ride, and booing if you fall off.”
Going into Sunday’s championship round, Pozzobon was sitting in fifth place in the standings. Even better, he had drawn a bull named Back Bender for his last ride – a proven piece of meat that almost always scores high with the judges.
“He was ‘Bull of the Year’ as a four-year-old,” said Pozzobon. “I knew that if I was going to ride him, I would probably get a pretty big score. Unfortunately, I came up just a little short.”
Just five hundredths of a second short in fact. So close to the required time of eight seconds that the young Merritt cowboy immediately appealed the decision.
“Sometimes they screw up and start the clock late,” he explained. “You have thirty seconds after your ride to appeal your time and hit one of the red buttons located at the ends of the chutes. It cost me $500 [to make the appeal], but I just had to. It was so close.”
Unfortunately, the appeal was turned down. A no-score on Back Bender dropped Pozzobon down to seventh in the final standings, one position behind fellow-Canadian Aaron Roy.
“The bull scored 44.5,” Pozzobon said. “If I had matched him [with my ride score], I would have had a minimum 89 points and ended up second instead of seventh. But, that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Pozzobon found his way to a top-10 finish thanks to three great rides prior to getting on Back Bender in the final. He scored 86.5 on James Dean in round one and 84.5 aboard Exotic Justin in the second go. After getting tossed by a bull called Delco in the third round, Pozzobon rebounded for another 84.5 on Frost Bite in the fourth performance.
The strong showing in the early rounds didn’t come without a price.
“As I was dismounting from Exotic Justin, I was way up in the air and came down hard on my left leg and hurt my knee,” described Pozzobon. “It wound up being a torn MCL. Going into the last day, I was sore and hurtin’ pretty good, but the sports medicine doctors taped me up and got me a brace.”
‘Playing hurt’ so-to-speak has become second-nature to Pozzobon who only recently returned from a broken hand incurred at last year’s Calgary Stampede in July.
After almost three months of rest and rehab, the hand got a severe test at the conclusion of his ride on Back Bender as Pozzobon briefly got hung up on the 2,000 lb. beast.
“Fortunately, it didn’t hurt the spot where I’d broken some bones before,” said Pozzobon.
While still caught up in his rigging, Pozzobon also ran the risk of being trampled or gored by Back Bender (see photo).
“When we get hung up, we’re taught to stay in tight,” he said. “I knew that my hand was close to comin’ free, so I was kinda waitin’ out. I was pretty lucky. It’s definitely not a spot a fella wants to be in.”
The 20-year-old Merritt bullrider has little time to lick his wounds as his rodeo schedule gets real busy for the rest of of January.
Pozzobon was due to perform in Denver and Pueblo, Colorado this week before his next PBR stop in Anaheim, California on the weekend. He is in Dallas January 17-18, Portland, Oregon January 20-21, Houston, Texas January 24-25 and in Sacremento, California January 27-28.
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Winner of the MSG event in New York was Cody Nance of Paris, Tennessee. The 2009 ‘Rookie of the Year’ was the only cowboy to ride all five of his bulls successfully. He took the title away from second-place finisher and last year’s champion, Valdiron de Oliveira from Aparecida de Goiania, Brazil.