Joins an elite group of Brazilian riders who dominate the sport of bull riding.
By Sean Chaffin
Renato Nunes of Buritama, Brazil, made Professional Bull Riders history Oct. 24 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas when he became only the second rider ever to win both the Built Ford Tough World Championship and the World Finals event in the same year.
He earned more than $1.3 million from the Finals, the richest bull-riding event in the world. Nunes finished the season with 13,960 points in the Built Ford Tough Series standings, earning almost $1.6 million and increasing his career earnings to more than $2.5 million. Nunes rode five of six bulls at the Finals to finish with 444 points.
Nunes joins an elite group of Brazilian riders who have taken the PBR by storm in recent years, including Valdir Oliveira, whose career earnings total $942,000; Silvano Alves, a newcomer with $76,000 in winnings; and Paulo Lima, another newcomer on the World Cup team; and Robson Palermo of Rio Branco, Brazil, who won the Built Ford Tough Championship Round at the 2010 World Finals.
Guilherme Marchi, entered the PBR in 2004 and has since become one of the biggest names in the sport. Marchi scored three runner-ups before capturing the PBR title in ’08. He also won the 2010 PBR World Cup. Marchi, who grew up in Itupeva, just outside São Paulo, says that not riding bulls was never an option for him.
“My older brother rode bulls, and I grew up on a ranch and watched rodeos and bull riding on TV,” he says. “When I was 15, I got on my first bull, and I haven’t stopped riding since.”
Back home, the Brazilian riders are celebrities. Marchi believes the number of Brazilians in the PBR is due to the sport’s growing popularity in Brazil and the money made riding bulls.
“When I go back, everyone knows me and the other Brazilian riders when we go to the airport and just walking around,” he says. “Everyone watches the PBR there and follows the Brazilians’ careers.”
Rodeo is not new in Brazil – its gaucho heritage and cattle culture are perfect for rodeo. The country has a professional circuit with the Barrettos International Rodeo the country’s top attraction. Barretos is a small agricultural town 265 miles west of São Paulo, and its annual 10-day event is in its 55th year. It attracts 80,000 spectators each night with a mix of state fair, carnival, rodeo, and performances by the biggest names in sertanejo, Brazilian country music. Barretos hosted the World Cup in 2009.
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