When the 2021 ProRodeo season came to a close with the 10th round of the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Richmond Champion bowed his head a bit.
He realized that placing in just three rounds wasn’t what he expected at this year’s NFR, the sport’s championship event that has a purse of more than $10 million. He’d hoped for better. He’d trained for better.
He also knew that’s the reality of rodeo. His final ride – 83 points on Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Uncapped – was out of the money and turned into a reflection of his 10 days in the Nevada desert; he didn’t win much in the go-rounds, but he rode strong each night.
“I came here to give it everything I had, and I really believe I did that,” said Champion, 29, of Stevensville. “No, I didn’t have the greatest finals, but I really have nothing to complain about either. I would have liked to have placed more, but that’s the way things go. We are getting on 10 of the greatest bucking horses in the world, and my friends are tough to beat.
“There are 15 guys here that ride bucking horses very well, and it’s going to be a fight every night for 10 nights. I think my theme this week has been consistency.”
Yes, it has. He scored 841 cumulative points on 10 rides and finished fourth in the all-important NFR average. That was worth nearly $33,000 and bolstered his Sin City earnings to $89,793. He finished the season with $188,739, good enough for eighth in the world standings. That’s actually a pretty strong way to end his seventh NFR.
“This is just an awesome rodeo every year,” he said. “I get to come in here and compete for a world championship. Sure, I wanted to be in the mix to win the gold buckle, but it was still fun to be part of this event and to be in that locker room with those 14 other guys. You get to do what you love, and you get to hang out with some great friends.”
Champion’s best go-round came early in the NFR, placing as the runner-up in the third go-round and pocketing $21,000 with an 88.5-point ride on Stace Smith Pro Rodeo’s Mr. Harry. He followed with a check for nearly $10,000 by tying for third place with three other bareback riders.
When he placed, he earned good money; that included his third-place ride in Wednesday’s seventh round on Hi Lo Pro Rodeo’s Wilson Sanchez, which was worth $16,000.
“I really feel like I rode good all week,” Champion said. “I had a few good horses, but there were just some match-up issues with what I had. There were some nights that I felt like I rode better than the scores showed, but that’s also part of rodeo. You deal with it and move on. You can’t look back at it and worry about it, because that won’t change anything.
“Overall, I’m happy with my week here. I won $90,000; that’s a pretty good week.”
Yes, it is.