PUEBLO, Colo. – Alisson de Souza wanted to jump around and throw his riding helmet high toward the New York Rangers and New York Knicks retired jerseys that hang from the Madison Square Garden rafters.
However, Souza was unable to celebrate as much as he would like following his fourth consecutive ride – an 86.75-point ride on Short Pop in the championship round – on Sunday afternoon.
Souza was hobbled and in pain all weekend long as he competed at the Monster Energy Buck Off at The Garden, presented by Ariat, hampered by a right foot injury he sustained during a motorcycle accident in Brazil this past offseason.
His face was a mixture of happiness, anguish, excitement and agony with each and every qualified ride.
The 25-year-old had to be attended to immediately following his first ride of the weekend in Round 1 when he covered Force Awaken for 85.5 points. PBR sports medicine then had to help him each ride of the way.
Souza admitted following his career best fourth-place finish that he did not expect to have this great of a start to the 2019 season.
He entered the event only 8-for-25 on the premier series in his career before putting up four rides in New York.
“I kind of was surprised of myself because I didn’t expect to ride this great at my first event,” Souza said with the help of Paulo Crimber translating. “I hadn’t really been on any bulls lately in Brazil. I was kind of relaxing and stuff. It worked out great.”
Souza is set to compete at the Chicago Invitational on Saturday and Sunday at AllState Arena.
The 2018 Velocity Tour champion has drawn Ol’ Boy (4-2, UTB) for Round 1.
Souza is No. 8 in the world standings and trails world leader Jess Lockwood by 732.5 points.
“I am very happy and confident for next weekend,” Souza said.
Souza said there is nothing to worry about with his injuries.
“During the ride, it doesn’t bother me at all,” Souza said. “It is just when I hit the ground there is that shock. It is not getting any worse. It is what it is. As long as it doesn’t bother me during the ride, I can handle it.”
Fans can watch the action Saturday night on RidePass (7:45 p.m. ET) and CBS Sports Network (10 p.m. ET).
Souza finished 2018 on a strong note by winning the 2018 Velocity Tour championship. He finished 34th in the world standings after going 37-for-86 (43.02 percent) at all levels.
“I think he is only going to get better,” RidePass analyst Colby Yates said. “He has the skills, just needed the confidence.”
You could see Souza’s confidence on display in New York as he was able to block out his injuries to make dominant work of his foes.
Souza rode Slam Dunk for 82.25 points in Round 2 and Roll of the Dice for 85.5 points in Round 3.
“I was surprised because I am a little rusty,” Souza said. “The bulls over here are different and stuff. I always get on a lot of bulls. Pretty much every day. Maybe this time off helped.”
Two-time World Champion and CBS Sports analyst Justin McBride talked about Souza’s dominance in New York during the telecast.
“When he rides a bull, it is in dominating fashion,” McBride said. “There is never a point where I think, ‘Oh, he is a little out of control or this is a little bit loose or he is a little too tight there.’
“It is just textbook.”
Souza made his premier series debut last year in Billings, Montana, when he traveled nearly 70 hours and 4,500 miles to compete in both Billings and the Velocity Tour event in Des Moines, Iowa.
Three-time World Champion Adriano Moraes believes Souza has barely touched the tip of his potential iceberg.
In 2017, Souza won the prestigious Barretos rodeo in Brazil.
Moraes says there is a lot more flash to Souza’s riding style that he has yet to unleash in the United States.
“He can have flash,” Moraes said in New York. “But that is OK. For now he should focus on just riding his bulls. Then the flash will come.”
Souza smiled when asked if he agreed with Moraes.
“Yes,” he said. “Yes. Yes.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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