LAS VEGAS – Jose Vitor Leme was standing on the bucking chutes inside South Point Arena in Las Vegas on Oct. 28 nervously pacing back and forth with sweat trickling down his neck prior to the start of the 2017 Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour Finals.
His uncertainty was apparent as the young 21-year-old bull rider, who had just arrived in the United States for the first time in his life 24 hours earlier, could not understand anything being said around him nor did he know what to expect in his first PBR event on American soil.
Eight days later, and it is safe to say Leme is no longer nervous.
Leme is instead $416,000 richer and the 2017 PBR Rookie of the Year following one of the greatest performances in PBR World Finals history.
The 2017 PBR Brazil champion capped a perfect 6-for-6 showing at the 2017 Built Ford Tough World Finals by riding Magic Train for a career-high 94.25 points to become the 20th World Finals event winner in PBR history.
“I’m really, really surprised because I watched a few videos of that bull and he didn’t buck as great as he did with me,” Leme said with the help of Paulo Crimber translating. “He really surprised me. I kind of got wowed by what he was doing and I had to step up my game and God just gave me the strength to keep going and ride him through the whistle and make that great 94-point ride.
“I really did not expect that, he caught me off guard and it’s amazing.”
Leme becomes only the fifth rider all time to win the World Finals by riding all of his bulls and is the fifth rookie to win the Finals.
The Ribas do Rio Pardo, Brazil, bull rider’s 8 seconds aboard Magic Train was by the far the most wildest and rankest ride this year at the World Finals.
It also helped Leme leave Las Vegas with a PBR World Finals event record in earnings for a non-World Champion.
PBR Director of Livestock and PBR co-founder Cody Lambert took it one step further and called Leme’s championship-round ride one of the best bull rides he has ever seen.
“That ride on Magic Train was as good a ride as any I’ve seen in my life, and I’ve seen a lot of rides in my life,” Lambert said. “He’s so good. It’s not a freak accident that he won the World Finals.”
Magic Train owner and stock contractor Matt Scharping joked someone better find out if Leme is part robot.
“Jose is a machine,” Scharping said. “That kid is crazy talented. When I saw the draw, I said Jose was going to ride the hair off him. I just wanted him to win the round on him and he did. That was one hell of a bull ride.”
Leme joins last year’s event winner Ryan Dirteater (6-for-6), 2013 and 2009 World Finals event winner J.B. Mauney (6-for-6, 8-for-8), 2014 event winner Silvano Alves (6-for-6), 2001 winner Luke Snyder (5-for-5) and 1997 winner Troy Dunn (5-for-5) as the only riders to be perfect and victorious at the World Finals.
Snyder, 2015 World Finals event winner Cooper Davis, 2003 winner Jody Newberry and 1996 World Finals event winner Ronnie Kitchens are the only rookies to win the World Finals.
Leme said what makes the ride so special is that it was worth so much more than just hundreds of thousands of dollars, but also historical prestige.
“It’s without a doubt the greatest ride ever of my life, of my career so far,” Leme said. “It wasn’t just a great phenomenal bull. With so much depending on that ride, one mistake I could have lost the rookie (title). I could have lost the World Finals event title. I could have lost everything.
“That means without a doubt this one of the greatest rides of my whole career and it was important to get it done.”
The ride also left a lasting impression on Mauney.
It took Mauney eight months to record his first 90-point ride in his career.
Leme now has three in his first six rides.
“He is for real,” Mauney said on the bucking chutes. “He ain’t playing. That is the best you can ever do. The first time you have been over here and he rides every bull he gets on and wins the short round of the PBR World Finals. The thing I watch about him, nothing against those other Brazilian guys, but he is riding move and loose and going with them bulls. Damn it.”
After going 3-for-4 at the Velocity Tour Finals to earn the international invite to the World Finals, Leme went on his 6-for-6 tear to finish the season ranked seventh in the world standings.
He is the first rider to win Rookie of the Year and not compete in a single regular-season Built Ford Tough Series event.
Leme finished the Finals with three 90-plus rides in his final four outs.
He posted qualified rides of 86 points on Opus, 86.5 points on Slinger Jr., 90 points on Mudshark, 90.5 points on Big Dutch, 89.75 points on More Big Bucks and 94.75 points on Magic Train.
Leme had landed on U.S. soil ranked 53rd after a stellar season in Brazil where he posted over an 82-percent riding average.
He not only won the 2017 PBR Brazil championship, but Leme also took home the PBR Brazil Finals victory and PBR Brazil Rookie of the Year.
“I’m so proud,” three-time World Champion Adriano Moraes said. “We knew he could do it, but nobody expected that soon. We’re surprised, but we’re also happy. He really represents this association, this organization really well.”
Leme is the first rider to win the PBR Brazil Triple Crown, PBR World Finals and PBR Rookie of the Year.
“It’s amazing, I mean this is the best year,” Leme concluded. “I could never imagine and expect so much in the same year and just win all those titles. And I think now I’m going to chase that world title and then I will be complete.”
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