PUEBLO, Colo. – It wasn’t a tearful goodbye after all for Valdiron de Oliveira.
Instead, one year after announcing his retirement from professional bull riding at the conclusion of the 2016 PBR World Finals, it appears as if it was actually a weeping see you later for Oliveira.
The 38-year-old bull rider has confirmed to PBR.com that he is unretiring and hopes to ride in the United States full time in 2018 after spending the majority of 2017 debating a comeback.
That journey begins Friday night at the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event in New Town, North Dakota.
“I have missed bull riding a lot,” Oliveira said Friday. “All the weekends in Brazil, I would sit at home and see all of my friends (on TV) at the bull riding. I said I miss the bull riding. I need to go back. I was not happy in Brazil. I was not riding bulls.”
Oliveira is one of the most successful bull riders in PBR history without a World Champion gold buckle around his waist.
The Goias, Brazil, native, is 403-for-773 (52.13 percent) with 23 90-point rides and 12 event wins.
He surpassed 50 qualified rides in his 10-year career five times and was a perennial world title contender from 2008-2012.
However, a herniated disc in his lower back forever altered his career.
Oliveira was dominating the 2012 season before he injured his back and watched himself trickle down the standings and finish fourth overall.
In 2011, he finished second to World Champion Silvano Alves.
Oliveira underwent career-threatening back surgery in 2012 in Brazil and returned to competition in 2013 following two months of rigorous rehabilitation with esteemed physical therapist Nivaldo Baldo.
He qualified for the World Finals four straight years following the surgery and had finished no lower than 16th in the world standings until 2016.
Now he is trying to make another monumental comeback and regain the title of oldest rider on the Built Ford Tough Series.
“This sport is my life,” Oliveira said. “I feel like I have work to do. I have more to do.”
Oliveira first hinted at a return to competition in March, but didn’t want to make his intentions public until he was back in the U.S.
In late winter he began to speak of a return to the United States with his wife, Andrea.
Their son, Paulo, was struggling adjusting to high school in Brazil. For the first time in his life, Paulo had to learn and write in Portuguese.
It was hard, and his frustration and disappointment weighed on Valdiron and Andrea.
“We were not happy,” Oliveira said. “We were sad all the time. He would cry and say, ‘I want to go back.’ This was the first time the (kids) went to school in Brazil. They were not happy. It was hard for them.”
Once he received his wife’s blessing, Oliveira got back to work in the gym.
He began to train with his son, feeding off his Paulo’s excitement of a return to the U.S. this year.
“My son wanted me to come back to bull riding too,” Valdiron said. “He said, ‘Dad I want to go back.’ I said, ‘OK give me time.’”
Oliveira competed very sparingly this past summer. He went 3-for-4 at his only PBR Brazil event at the end of July for a 14th-place finish. He finished in the Top-10 at two other rodeos.
“I worked out in Brazil in the gym every week,” Oliveira said. “I would ride the horse. I tried working on my mind and my head. I watched a lot of videos of the American bulls to see how they bucked.”
Oliveira has applied for five exemptions for the 2018 Built Ford Tough Series, but if his request is denied by the PBR Competition Committee, Oliveira says he will go through the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour level, if necessary, to get back on the PBR’s top-flight Built Ford Tough Series alongside his good friends.
He has already signed up for all of the remaining Velocity Tour events on the calendar year.
“I started soon because I want to start again in maybe New York,” Oliveira said. “I come over here soon because I need to ride bulls.”
The PBR’s top series begins on Jan. 5-7 with the Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden in New York.
Oliveira retired in style in 2016 by riding his first three bulls at the World Finals. He finished in eighth place overall (4-for-6) and rode Nailed for 86.5 points on what was thought to be the last ride of his career.
Following the ride, Oliveira broke down in tears inside the locker room.
It felt like maybe Oliveira was already regretting his decision to retire in those first initial moments.
“Oh yeah, that's true,” Oliveira said. “I felt good. I felt like I was back to my old self. I know before I retired, I put a lot of pressure on myself. I didn’t know if it was a good decision or not, but I didn’t feel ready to retire. My wife and daughter said it was time to retire. After that, they said if I wanted to go back to riding they approved.”
The family returned to Texas this week.
Valdiron got on two practice bulls at Paulo Crimber’s ranch before leaving with Wallace de Oliveira, Robson Aragao, Rubens Barbosa and Fabiano Vieira for New Town.
2016 was by no means a highly successful year for Oliveira. He finished 25th in the world standings, but did attempt the second-most bulls at all levels of competition of his career (109) and reached the 400-ride mark.
His comeback is less about winning that elusive gold buckle, but rather more so about going back to what he loves to do for a living, as well as a passion.
Oliveira said he is excited about being back in the United States and is ready to feel the rush that comes with competing against the bulls in the world alongside his best friends.
“What I miss most about bull riding is the adrenaline,” Oliveira said. “I love the adrenaline when I get on a bull and I love the sport.
He later concluded that he still won’t give up on his gold buckle dreams, though.
“I want to be the best right now,” Oliveira said. “I am working every day. I am not going just for fun. I want to compete too. I know it will be hard. There are a lot of young, good kids, but if you work your body, you have a chance to win a world title.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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