LAS VEGAS – Fire, passion, confidence, excitement and energy have all been on display from three-time World Champion Silvano Alves through two rounds of the 2017 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
Alves has never been the same rider since he broke his hip on April 11, 2014, in Nampa, Idaho. An almost unstoppable rider that was on a march to a fourth gold buckle returned to competition four months after the injury hesitant, unconfident, frustrated with judges and lacking the same desire he flashed as a Brazilian superstar.
Maybe it is only because the PBR is back in Las Vegas and there is $300,000 on the line for this year’s World Finals event winner, but Alves is quietly demonstrating pure confidence behind the scenes and loudly showcasing determination in the arena.
Alves rode Carrot Top for 86.25 points in Round 2 on Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena to enter Round 3 Friday a perfect 2-for-2 and second in the event average behind Jess Lockwood.
While the ride was impressive, what stood out even more from Alves was that the 29-year-old shook off getting stepped on, even laughing about being roughed up following his 8-second ride.
“Yeah. I am OK,” Alves responded with a smile reminiscent of his younger days. “Just sore. My back and groin.”
In the last three years, Alves has struggled with mentally blocking out the life-and-death risks that come with being a professional bull rider.
It was only nine months after breaking his hip that his head got stepped on by Cochise at Madison Square Garden in a scary incident.
Alves’s helmet was mauled to pieces, but the Brazilian native came back 24 hours later to ride Percolator.
Afterward, he admitted the close-call with Cochise still had him rattled.
The future PBR Ring of Honor inductee then struggled to trust his hip/leg as he had some setbacks in his recovery during his first season back post-surgery.
Some believed Alves’ egg was broken, as riders like to say when a rider fails to return mentally from an injury, ever since he underwent surgery three years ago.
Alves has agreed, even as recently as this past May, that his confidence in his hip/leg hasn’t been the same since that injury in the American Heartland.
He began the World Finals ranked 22nd in the world standings and is riding at a career-worst rate of 35.37 percent (29-for-82).
This week in Las Vegas, though, Alves is continually gaining confidence 8 seconds at a time.
In Round 1, Alves was put on the chute clock and nodded for the gate with about 2 seconds remaining.
Alves has normally been rattled by the chute clock in recent years, but on Wednesday night he channeled his inner frustration with 87.5 points aboard Switch Hitter.
“I know,” Alves said. “The bull didn’t stand good, but I didn’t care about the clock. I have confidence in myself, my leg, and I have trained hard since after break. I know I can ride good at the Finals. I can. That is it.”
For a rider that has a 72.72 percent riding average (32-for-44) at the World Finals, which is by far the highest among active riders, Alves has only begun the Finals with two consecutive rides twice in his eight-year career before this week.
In fact, the last time Alves began 2-for-2 at the World Finals was in 2013 and 2014. Each of those years he rode all three of his bulls, and in 2014 he won his only Finals event average title by going 6-for-6 to also win the 2014 World Championship.
“It is hard (to ride every bull) because these are the toughest bulls in the world,” Alves said. “Only four guys have ever done this. I am very happy to be with those top four guys in history and I will try again.”
Ryan Dirteater went 6-for-6 last year to win the Finals, while two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney won two World Finals by going 6-for-6 and 8-for-8. 2001 Finals event winner Luke Snyder was the first to be perfect (5-for-5) in Las Vegas.
Lockwood, Gage Gay and Jose Vitor Leme are the only riders to have yet to buckoff this week. Lockwood and Leme earned their first qualified rides two days ago at the Finals, while Gay was only 3-for-16 in three previous trips to the World Finals.
Alves is the experienced-laden veteran, but he admits young riders such as Leme, Kaique Pacheco, Luciano de Castro and Dener Barbosa are inspiring him.
Leme is a 21-year-old 2017 Brazilian champion competing in his first BFTS event.
“Yeah, it is good experience because all of the time you become old, but you keep learning and learning all of these new things,” Alves said. “The young guys help a lot some time. We help them a lot, but they help us too. They are good motivation. You want to prove you can do as good as the young guys.”
Alves selected Mar-A-Lago (3-2, BFTS) for Round 3. He previously has ridden the bull for 79 points in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
A second World Finals event average title would make Alves only the fourth rider in PBR history to win the PBR’s largest event multiple times.
Alves also would join Mauney as the only two riders to win multiple World Championships and World Finals titles.
“It is very important to me,” Alves said. “The Finals is the best event in the history of the PBR. I would be happy to win for another time. I am very happy to ride my two bulls for good scores.
“I have great confidence.”