Monday, Nov. 2, 2009 | 1:47 p.m.
The 45 professional bull riders competing in the Professional Bull Riders World Finals here this week know they face life-threatening injuries -- if not paralysis and death -- each time they buck the meanest animals on Earth for the 8-second ride.
There are stories of broken bones, strained groin muscles, concussions -- and that’s if you’re lucky. Others have been paralyzed after a bull stomps on their heads, and still others have died.
Ryan McConnell knows this all too well. Not only has he seen it, but he’s also escaped death twice from auto crashes while en route to the rodeo. Even here, he turned up with a punctured lung, blood in his eyes and a sliced forehead after a car crash, and he was still determined to ride at the Thomas & Mack Center for the 16th Annual PBR World Finals title.
Doctors forbid him to fly after the crash in Oklahoma when his truck was destroyed after flipping over five times after a car indicating a right turn suddenly turned left and stuck underneath his vehicle.
Said Ryan: “If you look at the photos, I shouldn’t have come out of that alive. I am really surprised I came out of it at all.”
Despite scratches, bruises, sore shoulders and an overnight hospital stay, he drove 21 hours to Las Vegas, making it just in time to sign on at registration. The medics said he couldn’t fly with the punctured lung, but he was OK to wrestle the bulls if he wanted!
“If I flew, the lung would have collapsed, and that can be fatal. I was safer on the back of a bull and not getting thrown off,” Ryan said.
Yesterday in Round 3, defending world champion Guilherme Marchi of Brazil was thrown off for the third time in these finals. So far since arriving here, he hasn’t managed to stay on the regulation 8-seconds once. In the championship standings, he is in third place and just shy of 1,000 points behind PBR leader Kody Lostroh, who has covered all three of his bulls here. Kody leads J.B. Mauney by 429 points for the $1 million payday. J.B. had to re-ride yesterday after his first bull stumbled. Only four riders have managed to cover their bulls in the first three rounds.
Yesterday’s Round 3 winner was Brazilian rider Robson Palermo, who grew up in the Amazon rain forest and studied videos of bull riders in order to learn the sport! Our contributing photographer Tom Donoghue was on duty at Thomas & Mack yesterday for this newest photo gallery of his all-action shots.
Meantime, Guilherme visited with fans and signed autographs at the PBR Fan Zone Meet and Greet at Mandalay Bay. Fans also lined up for autographs from two-time PBR world champion Chris Shivers and J.B. at the Fan Zone.
The 45 competitor cowboys now enjoy a three-day break before returning to the arena for Round 4 on Thursday leading into the final weekend and the ultimate battle for the $1 million purse and world champion title.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground. Read more of Robin's stories at VegasDeLuxe.com.
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