NEW YORK – Valdiron de Oliveira slid on his winter hat and grimaced as he exited the Renaissance Hotel on 35th Street in New York City and into the blistering and bitter, single-digit cold.
It was Friday afternoon and Oliveira wasn’t going to let the winter weather ruin a joyous day.
He had spent many days over the past year, and much more since returning to the United States in November, sitting on his couch in his living room with his bull rope in his hands.
Oliveira would run his hands up and down his bull rope and see himself riding some of the PBR’s rankest bovine athletes to the roar of the crowd.
“I have a lot of concentration,” Oliveira said. “I look at my rope and my hand. I think about getting on some bulls. Not the bull I am getting on today, but I want to produce some bull rides in the back of my mind. I want to see myself. This is a new thing.”
Oliveira didn’t waste any time at this weekend’s Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden to give his brain some new memories from inside the arena in first premier series event since unretiring this past Fall.
The Piranhas, Brazil, native rode all four of his bulls and finished runner-up to event winner Gage Gay.
Oliveira believes the key to being successful in 2018 will be his mental strength. He knows it will take more than just physical conditioning to overcome the nagging injuries that will come with being a 38-year-old bull rider.
“I work a bunch on my mind because it is the best part,” Oliveira said. “You have to work on your mind. The body needs to be in good shape, but your mentality is more important.”
Oliveira began the event with 82.5 points on Sam in Round 1 and he immediately got back to doing his celebratory pushups in the arena with PBR Exclusive Entertainer Flint Rasmussen once the 8-second mark sounded.
Rasmussen may have even gained a few pounds of muscle this weekend too thanks to Oliveira because the pushups never stopped.
Oliveira followed up his first-round ride with 81.25 points on Hoss and 85.75 points on Tractor Tippin to earn himself the first pick of the championship-round draft.
He then selected Nailed, and he was able to handle the Canadian bull for 86.25 points. Unfortunately for him, the ride was not good enough to push past Gay for the $100,000 payday.
Oliveira’s last ride of the weekend was sentimental in ways too. Nailed was the last bull he rode at the 2016 PBR World Finals before he retired.
In just one event back, Oliveira is now the No. 2 ranked bull rider in the world standings after earning 343.3 points in New York.
The long-time veteran may be putting an extra emphasis on his mental training, but he is well aware of how important his physical training will be this season.
“I am not too young anymore,” Oliveira said. “I know there are a lot of kids that come and are 19, 20, 26, 25. I need to work every day to be in good shape. I feel like I am in the same shape (as before I retired). I do exercises all the time at my house and with (trainer) Cliff (Cooper). I train a lot.”
Oliveira said he would like to lose four pounds and get back to 170.
Nine-time World Champion Ty Murray admitted he was completely shocked by Oliveira’s perfect weekend.
“He is a freak of nature,” Murray said. “We have known he is a freak of nature because he stayed around for a long time. He stayed around past the expiration date. Coming back, if you would have asked me the same question at the beginning of the weekend I would say it isn’t going to go well for Valdiron.”
Oliveira is looking to keep his good run going this week at the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event in Denver on Monday-Thursday.
“This week the points are very important right now because I have five (PBR 25th Unleash the Beast tour) events to stay on in the Top 35,” Oliveira said. “I needed to make some points. It don’t matter if I don’t win or not, second, third, fourth or fifth. I needed to make the short go. That was important to me.”
Oliveira had received five exemptions from PBR CEO Sean Gleason, but in reality he won’t need to worry about exemptions for the rest of the season now.
After earning 20 points at the Velocity Tour level prior to New York, Oliveira already has earned 363.33 world points, which will essentially keep him on the premier series for the entire first half.
Oliveira is well on his way now to qualifying for an 11th PBR World Finals barring a total collapse or injury.
However, Oliveira is already nursing a minor injury from New York.
Oliveira thought he was riding in the third section on Friday night and was on the back of the bucking chutes preparing to help some of his friends in the first section.
Instead, he was actually in the first section as well and had to rush to get ready.
“My leg is a little sore because I didn’t stretch before,” Oliveira said. “I ran back to the locker room, got my stuff and hurried.”
Murray said Father Time can still become a major detriment to Oliveira this season and that these kind of injuries will pop up more often than not.
“I still think it could be a long year for him,” Murray said. “38 is 38.”
Regardless, Murray is now excited to see if Oliveira does indeed have another run left in the tank, which would certainly be one hell of a run.
“When you look at sports, there are certain guys that are exceptions to the rule,” Murray concluded. “Very few guys. Valdiron was very impressive and it has gotten me excited to see what he can do.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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