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World champ O'Connell, Wyoming's Cress among Calgary Stampede winners

O'Connell Stampede 21.png
Posted at 8:28 AM, Jul 20, 2021

(Editor's note: PRCA release)

CALGARY - During a career that includes three PRCA bareback riding world championships, for Tim O'Connell one thing was missing.

A crown from the Calgary Stampede.

The Zwingle, Iowa, cowboy registered a 93.5-point ride aboard Calgary Stampede's Xplosive Skies in the finals Sunday to finally check off a long-awaited box.

"This was on my bucket list," O'Connell said. "This is a world-renowned rodeo. This means more than the money."

That score was the second-highest scored bareback ride in ProRodeo history.

There are five riders who are tied with the highest-scored bareback ride in ProRodeo at 94 points, including O’Connell twice. O’Connell’s first 94-point ride came in 2020 aboard Northcott Macza’s Stevie Knicks in 2020 in San Angelo, Texas. He then had a 94-point ride on Frontier Rodeo’s Gun Fire in Weatherford, Texas, April 3.

The rest of the 94-point bareback riders consists of Wes Stevenson on Kesler Rodeo’s Cover Girl in Dallas, 2002; Will Lowe, on Kesler Rodeo’s Sky Reach in Omaha, Neb., 2003; Ryan Gray on Carr Pro Rodeo’s Grass Dance in Eagle, Colo., 2009; Tilden Hooper on Classic Pro Rodeo’s Big Tex in Silver City, N.M., 2009.

The $50,000 check for winning the final round will lift O’Connell up (half of that counting toward the PRCA | RAM World Standings), as well as earnings from winning the first and fourth rounds in Pool A, along with the four-head aggregate, to put him in the No. 1 spot in the standings. He also gained valuable ProRodeo Tour points with the win.

Six years ago, O'Connell reached the final round but couldn't continue due to a broken hand suffered earlier in the rodeo.

On Sunday, he had to wait through a re-ride to finally realize a long-awaited goal.

"This was the first final four I've made since then, so I was 100% nervous," O'Connell said. "The level of riders and horses in that round, anything can happen."

O'Connell, who had a 90-point ride in the 10-man semifinal round to secure a spot in the finals, ended up one point clear of Bennett, who finished runner-up with a 92.5-point ride.

"This horse does most of the work," O'Connell said. "I watched this horse win a round at the NFR (in 2020) and knew this was the one to have. I've had this one before, but he slipped, and I still had an 86. He kicked hard and his feet come at you quick, so you have to get back down. This means a lot with momentum working toward the end goal."

O'Connell was battling through a rib injury that made things difficult with the rank Calgary Stampede horses.

"I'm more banged up than usual," O'Connell said. "I took a rigging to my ribs a few weeks ago, but I'm going to fight through it. I've never had a rib injury before, but I'll have to suck it up."

Other winners in the $1,500,000 rodeo were: steer wrestler Stetson Jorgensen (4.7 seconds); saddle bronc rider Brody Cress (94.5 points on Calgary Stampede's Special Delivery); tie-down roper Cory Solomon (7.3 seconds); barrel racer Bertina Olafson (17.247 seconds); and bull rider Jordan Hansen (87.5 points on Calgary Stampede's Diamond Back).