Members of the rodeo community helped reporter Jeff Wolf select the 10 most memorable editions of the past 49 National Finals Rodeos.
2001, Las Vegas
Purse: $4.6 million
It is year forever etched in the minds and souls of Americans.
Three months before the National Finals Rodeo opened on the first Friday of December, terrorists attacked the country on Sept. 11.
The country had higher priorities and concerns that winter, which contributed to the lowest attendance at the NFR in Las Vegas since 1997.
For those who attended or watched on ESPN, the ninth go-round gave witness to the intestinal fortitude — “try” in rodeo parlance — of the American cowboy.
Cody Ohl arrived in Las Vegas gunning for his first all-around and third calf roping world championships in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
In the penultimate ninth go-round, Ohl roped his calf and the moment he dismounted he blew out his right knee. Undaunted, he crawled to the roped calf to tie its feet. He fought and fought while wincing in pain.
But he tied it. It took him 40.9 seconds, but he finished a job he started.
He missed the final go-round, but afterward stood on stage with the aid of crutches and a leg brace that ran from ankle to mid-thigh.
Ohl had locked up the calf roping title in the seventh round and all-around after the ninth.
If there are tougher athletes than those in rodeo, well, I’d like to meet them.
As stirring as Ohl’s effort and success were, there were other highlights of the 2001 NFR:
Bryan Fields tied the NFR record in steer wrestling with a run of 3.0 seconds, a mark that still stands;
A tough pen of horses allowed only three saddle bronc riders to reach the eight-second horn in a go-round, the only time that’s happened in the 49-year history of the NFR;
Speed Williams and Rich Skelton won their first NFR titles and the fifth of eight consecutive world titles in team roping;
Tom Reeves competed in his 17th NFR and left with his first and only bareback world title;
Eight-time world champion Joe Beaver became the first professional rodeo athlete to win more than $2 million; this weekend Trevor Brazile will become the first to eclipse $3 million in PRCA career earnings.
In barrel racing, Janet Stover rallied from a $60,000 deficit to win her first world title.The countdown to No. 1 continues.