Derek Kolbaba knew he was not going to be able to win a world title in 2018, but he wanted to prove he could compete in Las Vegas at the World Finals event.
He did not have to wait long.
The Monster Energy bull rider was the first bull rider out.
The left-hander challenged a no-score he received, but after further review he was called for a touch at 7.95 seconds. It was not the first impression he wanted to make a year after arriving in Las Vegas the No. 1 rider in the world standings only to finish No. 2.
This year was about proving he can consistently make the whistle on the top-ranked bucking bulls in the world. Five days later, he had gone 3-for-6 with a trio 91-point rides, including a pair on the final day of the season.
“It means everything,” Kolbaba said. “This is the best bull riding you can ask for. The fans are outstanding.”
He then added, “This one’s for my granddad.”
The elder Kolbaba had been sick for much of the 2018 season, but he was at home in Washington watching his grandson on television.