It was a historic day for the Professional Bull Riders on Sunday at the Thomas & Mack Center, thanks to a couple of Brazilians.
For the first time in the PBR's 19-year history, there were back-to-back winners of the world championship and the World Finals. Silvano Alves repeated as world champion, while Robson Palermo repeated as World Finals champion and also became the first three-time winner of the event.
Alves won $1 million for his achievement, while Palermo earned $250,000 for his World Finals win and $304,333 in total prize money for the week.
"I'm incredibly happy," Alves said through an interpreter. "It was very difficult, but I know it will be remembered."
Alves started the week slow but held off fellow Brazilian Guilherme Marchi, who closed the gap Sunday with rides of 83 and 88.75 points. Alves' fifth-round ride got him 87.50 points, and he finished 659.25 points ahead of Marchi in the season standings.
"Winning last year gave me the confidence I could do it again," said Alves, who finished sixth at the World Finals. "When I got here (to Las Vegas), I knew it was a close race. I knew I could win and I knew I could lose. The most important thing for me was to stay on my bulls."
For Palermo, just getting on his bulls was a chore. His right shoulder was aching when he arrived Wednesday, and he dislocated his right kneecap in a chute mishap during round two Thursday. Despite being barely able to walk, Palermo earned his title by scoring on five of six rides, including in the championship round, when he stayed aboard Pawnbroker and scored 87.25 points.
Palermo finished with 439.25 points, 87.50 points ahead of countryman Emilio Resende.
"I said to myself that I had to stay on," Palermo said. "It has been a tough year. I missed 11, 12 events after having surgery on my shoulder, and my right shoulder probably needs surgery. But I had to ride here and defend my championship.
"I came here hurt everywhere, but I'm leaving here like a young kid."
The domination of the Brazilians didn't end with Alves and Palermo. Resende trailed Chase Outlaw and Chad Besplug in the Rookie of the Year race heading into the World Finals. But after two big rides Sunday of 87.50 points in round five and 89.75 points in the championship round, Resende passed his rivals to claim the top spot while earning $181,833. He also gave Brazil a sweep of the three major rider awards (world champion, World Finals champ and Rookie of the Year) for the third consecutive year.
Circle T Ranch's Asteroid also locked up Bull of the Year honors Sunday with 93.25 points. Asteroid edged out Bushwacker for the award by .25 points after being runner-up to Bushwacker a year ago. Jeff Robinson earned Stock Contractor of the Year honors for the third consecutive year.
But it was the Brazilians who were celebrating the most. Alves had been consistent all year, and ultimately, that consistency paid off handsomely.
"I've always wanted to be a good bull rider," Alves said. "But I never thought I'd be this good.
"I don't ride for the money. I ride because I love the sport and I want to win. Both (world championships) are good. But the second one is better."
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.