PUEBLO, Colo. – It was a very brief interaction, but Eduardo Aparecido’s smile said it all on Sunday afternoon inside the Sprint Center.
Aparecido was walking out of the arena following his victory at the Kansas City Invitational, presented by Express Employment Professionals, when two-time World Champion Justin McBride cut off a conversation with two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney to congratulate Aparecido.
“Eduardo, great job!” McBride beamed.
Aparecido, smiling from ear to ear, replied, “Thank You” and then continued his way out of the arena.
McBride has been a major advocate of Aparecido’s potential the last two seasons, and Aparecido hasn’t let that support gone unnoticed.
Now in his fifth year, Aparecido is trying to evolve from Top 10 rider to World Champion contender. To do so, he has spent some time observing and interacting with veterans in the locker room such as three-time World Finals event winner Robson Palermo, three-time World Champion Silvano Alves and 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi.
However, he also has been watching some old videos of McBride in his heyday.
“I like Justin McBride a bunch,” Aparecido said moments earlier with the help of Palermo translating. “The way he rode and the way he commentates. He is really positive about me. Every time he talks to me, it is good. He motivates me to work harder.”
Aparecido’s 3-for-3 victory this weekend moved him to No. 3 in the world standings.
The 26-year-old is off to a career-best 12-for-21 (57.14 percent) start and his 12 rides is tops in the PBR.
“No I didn’t change much,” Aparecido said. “I just run a little bit more. What I do more is I watch more video and I correct myself. Just that and I stay focused.”
Aparecido set a career-high in 2016 with 41 qualified rides and finished seventh in the world standings. He has finished inside the Top 10 of the world standings in three of his four seasons with his lowest finish being 11th in 2015.
The Gouvelandia, Brazil, rider has a career riding percent just over 47 percent and also recently won the 15/15 Bucking Battle two weeks ago in Sacramento, California, with a 90.25-point ride on Jack Shot.
So what does he need to do to really put himself in the same World Champion conversation as a Mauney, Cooper Davis, Jess Lockwood or Kaique Pacheco?
“It is just that self-inner confidence,” McBride said. “Not that he has to tell you, me or talk about it or anything, but that inner belief he is going to ride every bull. That is obviously not going to happen. He is not going to ride everyone, but if he approaches it that way he is going to ride the majority of them. In the 15/15 this week, a bull (Jack Shot) he was just 90 on last week, and you see him get his head picked up, and right there he has to get it back down. Even if he doesn’t finish him, he has to give it everything he’s got to finish him.
“If he can make that transition, man, the sky is the limit for him. I think he will be a real player in the world title race. He is already a real player six events in. He is third already.”
Palermo agreed with McBride about Aparecido’s potential.
“It is more mental,” Palermo said. “He has to be mentally stronger. I think he can be. So far, the way he is riding this year, he is. You know, Eduardo has been coming every year and been right there close. Sometimes he has gone down too. I don’t know what happened when he has gone down. He is a guy that is Top 5 for sure.”
Aparecido demonstrated in Kansas City the ability to ride bulls regardless of direction.
His first two rides – 86.75 points on Switch Hitter and 86.5 points on Swashbuckler – spun away from his riding before. He then showcased his strength into his right hand by riding Cooper Tires Brown Sugar for an event-winning 88.75 points.
Some Brazilian riders that have come to the United States have struggled with riding away from their hands, but Aparecido said he has never felt that to be too much of a problem for him.
“I feel good,” Aparecido said. “I don’t care if they go both ways. I don’t feel like it bothers me if they go left or right. In Brazil, I was the same way if a bull went left or right.”
McBride said, “As far as the riding part, he has all of the attributes. He is skinny, he is strong. His mechanics are really good. He is good in either direction. He doesn’t have to have them go just right. He can ride away from his hand as well.”
Aparecido believes 2017 may just be his year.
“This year is different,” he concluded. “I have more focus on my riding. I come this year with real strong training and am doing everything right. I feel good and I need to continue to do what I have been doing and the rest will come.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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