LAS VEGAS – Every morning Jose Vitor Leme wakes up at his apartment in Decatur, Texas, the 22-year-old looks at the wall and sees a reminder.
Leme wants his dreams to become a reality and taped on his wall is a picture of the PBR World Championship trophy.
It is a reminder of why he moved to the United States a year ago.
A reminder of all the hard work that he has put in thus far, and how much more work he needs to do if he hopes to one day have a framed photo on his wall of himself hoisting the PBR World Championship trophy.
In fact, no one knew of the photo other than his wife, Amanda, before Leme mentioned it during this past weekend.
The No. 2 bull rider in the world standings did not bring his printed copy of the trophy with him to Las Vegas this week.
“I look at it every time I go by, but nobody knew that until now, but my wife,” Leme said with the help of Paulo Crimber translating. “I’ve got it next to my bed, and I look at it every morning when I get up. It has been there since February.”
Leme does not need any more reminders about how close he is to winning a World Championship this week at the 2018 PBR World Finals.
T-Mobile Arena is only a hop, skip and a jump away from his hotel room at the Park MGM.
The T-Mobile is the sight of Leme’s breakthrough performance one year ago.
Leme won the 2017 PBR World Finals by going 6-for-6 and riding Magic Train for a sensational 94.5 points. He also took home a PBR-record $416,000.
The 2017 Rookie of the Year was brand new to the United States and had only qualified for the PBR World Finals by winning the international wild card at the 2017 Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour Finals.
A second consecutive World Finals event victory may indeed make Leme’s dream a reality.
Leme heads into his Round 1 matchup against Full Count only 1,535 points behind world leader Kaique Pacheco.
He leads the PBR with 12 round victories and is 37-for-70 (52.86 percent) on the premier series.
“I think came into Finals in a great position right now,” Leme said. “I try to not think about the gold buckle yet. I just try to think of it bull by bull. Do a job and I am here for that. I am ready. I am healthy. We will see what happens in the end.”
The door is open even more for Leme to try to overcome the largest lead ever held by a world No. 1 heading into the World Finals in the current points system.
In fact, only two riders have earned 1,535 points or more in the current points system at the World Finals.
Both riders – Leme (2,532.5) in 2017 and Ryan Dirteater in 2016 – won the World Finals and rode all of their bulls.
Fans can watch all of Round 1 on CBS Sports Network beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET. RidePass will have companion coverage at 9:30 p.m. ET.
Both CBS Sports Network commentators Justin McBride and Cody Lambert pegged Leme as a rider to watch even before Pacheco got hurt.
“That freaking Leme, he is not afraid,” McBride said. “He is not afraid to get in there and try to win a go-round. I wouldn’t call it wide open by any stretch, but Jose has got a real shot. I mean, how many points did he get here last year? He’s only 1,500 back. So shoot, not only can he win it, but he could blow it away.”
Lambert added, “A couple weeks ago I thought it was over. I thought Kaique had it. And now I think Kaique’s the underdog. Jose (is favored). I think those are the only two guys, really, that have a legitimate shot at it.”
There are 10 riders mathematically still alive for the World Championship.
Pacheco, No. 2 Leme (-1,535), No. 3 Claudio Montanha Jr. (-2,013.33), No. 4 Luciano de Castro (-2,204.16), No. 5 Cody Teel (-2,380), No. 6 Ramon de Lima (-2,439.16), No. 7 Cooper Davis (-2,724.16), No. 8 Cody Nance (-2,788.33), No. 9 Eduardo Aparecido (-3,054.17) and No. 10 Fabiano Vieira (-3,225.83).
However, historically, any rider within 2,000 points has a legitimate chance at the world title.
Leme is the only rider within 2,000 points of Pacheco, but Pacheco’s injury could open the door for the other riders.
The Ribas do Rio Pardo, Brazil, native went 1-for-3 at the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour Finals at the South Point Hotel Casino & Spa.
The two buckoffs are more than he had last year at the Velocity Tour Finals and World Finals combined (9-for-10).
Leme may not be able to afford any more buckoffs if he wants to secure the $1 million World Championship Sunday night.
“This is my moment,” Leme concluded. “My dream. That’s what I want, I will fight for it, and I want it bad enough to try my best to get it.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2019 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.