Silvano Alves gently eases himself down onto a near-ton of snorting muscle inside the padded metal chute. In an instant he’s thrown sickeningly headfirst over the animal’s horns into the chute front; not once, but twice. There is concern on the rider’s face, mercifully protected now by a grilled metal helmet that has replaced the once-traditional cowboy hat. He backs off the bull momentarily to gather himself.
Soon after—3.37 seconds to be exact—Alves is ingloriously tossed to the turf by the bull named Stone Sober, whose own worksheet is impressive: only once in 25 tries has he been successfully ridden. Another fact becomes abundantly clear: A bucking bull doesn’t discern a two-time consecutive world champion on its back from the rawest greenhorn.
While Alves miraculously avoided serious injury at that Professional Bull Rider’s (PBR) tour stop in Thackerville, Okla., earlier in the year, the native Brazilian rider is the rugged sport’s on-going sensation and the outright favorite to make it three world championships in succession―an unprecedented feat―at the PBR World Finals at Las Vegas on Oct. 23-27.
“Silvano was born to ride bulls,” says his friend, fellow PBR competitor and frequent translator Guilherme Marchi, the 2008 PBR world champion. “He is very focused and he loves what he does.”
That love sprung to life for Alves, born and raised in the Brazilian town of Pilar do Sul, a city of close to 26,000 people within the state of Sao Paulo, from watching his father and uncles ride bulls.
“I remember they supported me a lot,” Alves, 25, says. When he was 13, in 2000, young Silvano mounted his first bull at “the home of a friend on my first bull training.”
Alves’ popularity on the PBR circuit has brought even more increased awareness of the sport to his native land. Today, 25 bull riders with Brazilian roots grace the 100-rider PBR roster. Should Alves three-peat as champion this week, five of the last six PBR world titlists will have come from Brazil.
PBR World Finals Oct. 23-27
Las Vegas, NV
“It started for us when Adriano Moraes (1994), Paulo Crimber (1998), Ednei Caminhas (2000), and André Moraes (2001) came to the United States and had success,” says Marchi of the cavalcade of Brazilian riders that preceded his own PBR debut in 2004. “We had success because of the bull riders that came before us. We were very interested by their successes, the quality of life, and the financial rewards we could have.”
Alves launched his impressive PBR career in 2010, winning Rookie of the Year honors and wasting no time building his championship legacy, which began the following year. “Winning in 2011 was a dream come true, it was very emotional,” says Alves, a family man and devout Christian, who now lives with his wife, Evelin, and two children Hanyelle, 4, and Edward, 2, in Decatur, Texas.
“The second time was more emotional for me, because winning back to back championships had never been done before.”
And a third straight title is in the crosshairs. “I do not know if I will win,” he says, “but I am certainly working toward that, though all the riders are riding very well. Only God knows what will happen.”
By Alan Ross