PUEBLO, Colo. – Rubens Barbosa’s right bicep may be more famous than the bull rider himself, but this summer the attention is less on his famed python and rather his right ankle.
Barbosa has been refusing to give up on his Built Ford Tough Series dreams and has continued to ride all summer long despite having sustained a broken ankle in Tacoma, Washington, two months ago when Moleek twisted Barbosa’s ankle inside the bucking chute.
“I love to ride bulls,” Barbosa said. “I need to make points. I have a big chance here. Right now, I am down in the rankings.”
Barbosa may feel he is down in the world standings, but the 2011 Rookie of the Year is having the best season of his career. Barbosa is the No. 12 rider in the world standings and has a strong of finishing inside the Top-10 for the first time.
He is aspiring even higher than that.
“I want to keep riding for this because I want to finish this year in the Top 5,” Barbosa said. “I want this. I will ride for this.”
Barbosa hasn’t been able to work on that goal with much success this summer so far. He is only 1-for-5 through four events since Last Cowboy Standing, but he will once again tape up his ankle and get to work this weekend.
Barbosa will be competing at the Slick Rock Challenge Touring Pro Division event in Rocksprings, Texas, on Friday and Saturday night along with seven other Top 35 riders. Also riding in Rocksprings is No. 4 Jess Lockwood, No. 14 Cody Teel, No. 16 Marco Eguchi, No. 17 Cody Nance, No. 18 Fabiano Vieira, No. 29 Koal Livingston and No. 33 Luis Blanco.
The 33-year-old had met with Dr. Tandy Freeman earlier this summer and was given two choices. He could either undergo surgery or try to compete with an ankle brace.
“I decided to wear the ankle brace,” Barbosa said. “I am much better.”
Barbosa has also been spending time this summer working with an English instructor and in only a few weeks his grasp of the language has improved tremendously.
“I am slowly learning,” Barbosa said. “This is good for me, being here in the United States.”
Barbosa is on pace to surpass his career-high of 17 qualified rides, which he set last year, after going 13-for-42 (30.95 percent) in the first half. He won the second event of the season in Chicago and it was the first of five Top-10 finishes.
Barbosa is only 513.74 points behind his goal of jumping into the Top 5.
“You have to try to ride correct, but when you open the gate you feel sore,” Barbosa said. “My foot and back. Right now, I am going to a chiropractor because my vertebrae is not correct.”
Barbosa understands he needs to make sure he keeps his free arm toward the front when riding. He has caught himself to many times leaving his free arm behind and getting caught out of position.
Still, Barbosa believes he can compete despite the painful injury.
In 2015, Barbosa broke his ankle during the Iron Cowboy competition attempting to ride Smooth Operator. He missed only two weeks and was able to grit his way to his first World Finals qualification in four years.
“Right now, my ankle feels better,” he said. “I kept putting ice and heat on it. Real Time Pain Relief is good for me. It helps a lot. The nerves and muscle is a little bit sore, but I don’t know.”
Barbosa later concluded, “I will keep trying. I will keep riding. I will try to ride good.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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