2019 PRCA Media Guide - 2018 World Champions

Bareback Riding

Tim O’Connell O’Connell overcomes challenging season

Tim O’Connell spent the 2018 regular season proving he could battle back fromwhatever rodeo threw at him. He had no trouble doing the same at the 60th Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. O’Connell won his third straight bareback riding world championship after his final ride in 2018 (at the Wrangler NFR), winning with $319,801. “It’s surreal,”said O’Connell, 27.“It was a battle fromDay 1.The season started slow, it picked up. It was a fight through the end of the season. It came down tome leaving it all on the line when it came down to the 10th round.” In his two prior seasons, the Zwingle, Iowa, cowboy held leads of $40,668 (in 2016) and $65,259 (2017). His lead heading into the 2018Wrangler NFR was nowhere near those numbers. O’Connell’s lead before Round 1 kicked off was $14,822. He lost the top spot after Round 7; it took a Round 9-win (a 90-point ride on Cervi Champion- ship Rodeo’sVitalix Ain’t No Angel) for O’Connell to regain the lead. He held that lead through Round

10, earning a split of the average and his third consecutive gold buckle. Only seven bareback riders have won four or more world championships. HisWrangler NFR performance was something he fought internally throughout the Finals. It wasn’t until Round 9 O’Connell believed he was on track. He finished by splitting the average with Steven Dent with 849.5 points on 10 head. “I had plenty of sleepless nights, anxiety and was sick to my stomach wondering what’s going on out here,”said O’Connell, who also won Round 3 with an 88.5-point ride on Powder River Rodeo’s Craig at Midnight. “I had this peace about me going into the second eliminator round, and I feel I came and shined at that point. I felt I was backed into a corner and God told me to fight – and I fought.” All those challenges, plus the enjoyment of his first child, son, Hazen, made title No. 3 special. O’Connell said he will feel that every time he dons his new buckle. “I wear them all,”


he said. “I got a belt made last year that had a 2x on it. I’m going to get a belt made this year that’s going to have a 3x on it. And I’m going to hang it. People ask, ‘Why don’t you keep that in a safe?’This is something cherished tome. I live for these moments. I live to come out on top, and I’mdoing every- thing in my power to be the best in the world. I want my son to see this. I want my family to see this. I’m very proud of these buckles, and I’m going to show them to the world.”’ – Scott Kaniewski

PRCA ProRodeo photo by James Phifer

O’Connell earned his third consecutive bareback riding world title at the 2018 Wrangler NFR. Only seven bareback riders have won four or more world championships.



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