Kaique Pacheco hobbled across the dirt surface inside T-Mobile Arena, labored up a flight of stairs and onto a stage amid energetic applause from the announced crowd of 15,267.
The torn PCL and MCL in his left knee prematurely ended his Sunday at the Pro Bull Riders World Finals.
But that couldn’t keep him from accepting the prize he worked so hard to secure.
Pacheco, a 24-year-old from Sao Paulo, Brazil, claimed his first PBR world championship despite tearing both ligaments during the Velocity Tour Finals last weekend. He competed in all five days of the league’s penultimate event — held annually in Las Vegas — but tweaked the knee during his first ride Sunday.
He sat out the championship round because he already had clinched the title, but insisted afterward that he would have mounted another bull had he needed the additional points.
“I really didn’t want to put my leg at risk and make it worse than what it is,” he said through a translator. “I am really happy, because with this kind of injury, it’s not easy to compete with.”
Pacheco burst onto the PBR scene full-time in 2015 and earned rookie of the year honors en route to a second-place finish. He finished runner-up again in 2016 and fifth in 2017, but broke through in 2018 by winning eight events.
Pacheco led the PBR standings for most of the year and competed in Las Vegas despite the injuries, which were supposed to sideline him for a minimum of 12 weeks. He finished the season with an aggregate total of 5,444.16 points.
Jose Vitor Leme finished second with 5,021.66.
“It’s amazing,” Pacheco said. “I’ve learned a lot from those second places.”
Marco Eguchi won the event championship and earned an additional award by recording a high score of 94 (on a 100-point scale) Friday. He also registered four other scores of 84 or better.
“We’re training hard for this kind of competition,” he said. “To do this in the finals. I feel great.”
Utah native Keyshawn Whitehorse won rookie of the year honors.
His final ride Sunday earned a score of 89.5 and helped him stave off second-place finisher Colten Jesse.
“It wasn’t necessarily something that I worried about or thought about too much. It was something I knew I could achieve,” Whitehorse said. “To be able to seal the deal with one last final ride, to be able to keep through and keep pushing … it’s just a memory that I’ll cherish.”