NEWARK, N.J. – Fernando Henrique Novais missed the entire 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic and an injury to his right knee.
During his time away from competition, though, Novais made sure to find a way to improve his game despite having no bull ridings to go to in Brazil as his native country dealt with the global pandemic.
And how did the now 35-year-old find a way to do that?
Well, Novais spent time at 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi’s ranch and worked with the 2019 Ring of Honor inductee on how to mentally approach the game – an area that Novais has always struggled with during his career.
“I was out for a year for a knee injury, and right after that, the pandemic started,” Novais said with the help of Paulo Crimber translating. “I took that time to prepare myself and focus, and just to come over here and ride my best and try to get inside the Top 35. I stayed at Guilherme’s ranch, and he kind of gave me a lot of confidence when the time comes to ride because I was really kind of bad at that aspect mentally.”
That dedication paid off Sunday as Novais went a perfect 3-for-3 to finish the PBR ZipRecruiter Invitational in second place, highlighted by a career-best 90.25 points on Mike’s Motive in the championship round.
The first 90-point ride of his career helped Novais earn 91.5 world points, pushing him up the world rankings from No. 63 to No. 39.
The 2018 PBR Brazil champion has ridden five of his first six bulls since making his Unleash The Beast season debut as an alternate in Anaheim, California, last weekend. Novais began his weekend in Newark with 86 points on Black Beetle Saturday in Round 1 and continued to build momentum with 88.25 points on Dirty Sancho in Round 2 Sunday.
Novais is now only 26 points behind No. 35 Conner Halverson ahead of next weekend’s PBR Monster Energy Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires, in Deadwood, South Dakota.
Five regular-season Unleash The Beast events remain before the PBR World Finals begins on Nov. 3 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Novais last competed at the World Finals in 2014 as a Brazilian international invite.
“This year is going to be my best year,” Novais concluded. “I think I am more mature, and I am ready for these bulls. I am kind of calm to get on the bulls. I don’t get too excited and just kind of stayed focused.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media