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Jose Vitor Leme rides Phenom Genetic/Rothe's Bad Beagle for 91.5 during the championship round of the Albuquerque PBR 25th Anniversary Unleash the Beast.


Mar 292018

For most bull riders competing in their first full season on the elite televised tour, being ranked seventh in the PBR world standings with a 47 percent riding average would be thought of as a great start their season. 

Jose Vitor Leme is not most riders.

Last year’s Rookie of the Year is different.

Very different.

In fact, Leme is a special type of rider who rare comes along.


Last November, he went 6-for-6 in Las Vegas, including a 94.5-point effort on Magic Train in the Championship Round, to win the World Finals event average and claim Rookie of the Year honors in his PBR debut.


That’s right, he earned his way to Vegas as the Brazilian champion and then proceeded to not only ride every bull he faced, but also win rounds. He won two of the last three rounds to finish out his first week in the United States as strong as he was earlier in the week.


But it wasn’t until January that he felt homesick.


And with that came the frustration of not knowing the language, which made the food, the culture and a different way of life seem and feel all that much different than what he was used to in Brazil.


“Not knowing the language is the worst,” said Leme, with the help of former bull rider and fellow Brazilian Paulo Crimber translating for him. “I’m working on it, to learn.”


Leme added, “Being away from home, from family and friends, eating a different kind of food, coming to a totally different country, it’s a change and not easy. Without a doubt that hurt me (and) my riding.”


The 21-year-old from Robas do Rio Pardo, Brazil, said he’s been focused on improving his consistency.


Nevertheless, only twice in 11 events has gone the weekend without a single qualified ride. And one of those weekends was the Iron Cowboy, in Arlington, Texas, in which he was knocked out of competition in the first round of the ride-and-advance style tournament.


Last week, after the event in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he moved into 10th place and now after going 3-for-3 in Arizona, he’s up to seventh in the world standings.


Leme is less than 500 points from the No. 1 ranking, which is an event even away from being the top-ranked bull rider in the world.


“It's not easy to be in the Top 10 week-in and week-out,” Leme said, “but I'm going to work hard to keep going to (a) higher position after every weekend. … I think this is where everybody wants to be in the Top 10 best of the whole world. I'll be happy to finish Top 10, but I would love to finish No. 1."


“I’m going to work really hard to ride all the way to the Finals like this,” Leme continued. “I’m going to be a tough competitor and work real hard to make my dream come true to be a World Champion.”


In the meantime, Leme will take advantage of a week off from the elite televised tour, rest, recover and regroup before reconvening in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the first weekend in April.


That begins a five-week stretch leading into a summer-long break from the elite tour.