TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Anthony Thomas grits his teeth on his way to winning the bareback event on day three of the Manitoba Finals Rodeo at the 2012 Wheat City Stampede at Westman Place on Saturday evening.
Spurring for a higher score, Australian cowboy Anthony Thomas was committed to leaving it all out there at the 2012 Wheat City Stampede’s Manitoba Finals Rodeo taking place at the Keystone Centre this weekend.
"The rides this weekend at the Finals really made me remember why I came over here," Thomas said. "It makes you feel like your on top of the world again. It’s a feeling that I can’t really describe."
What at times has been a rough ride for Thomas during his first year in Canada competing in the bareback and saddlebronc events has made everything worth while this weekend. The 25-year-old from Kimberly, located in northwestern Australia, won his both events, propelling him into the high point championship at the MFR.
"This sport will get you down a hundred times and lift you up once," Thomas said. "I felt good all year and I had a lot of injuries all year, but I rode through it all and this is probably the best I’ve felt all year."
After dominating the Australian Professional Rodeo Association circuit last year, Thomas turned his life savings into a plane ticket to Canada to take the next step in his rodeo career.
"The best broncs in the world are in Canada and it’s the only place to make it," Thomas said. "You get to get on some really good horses at these rodeos and it’s good, especially if you get your ass handed to you."
The wirey, 5-foot-6, 135-pound cowboy has spent his summer packing his gear into his vehicle and hitting every rodeo he can get to. If the rodeos are close in proximity to each other it’s not uncommon for Thomas to enter as many as four rodeos in a weekend.
"It’s a real survival game," Thomas said. "It’s a luck game too — drawing game, staying healthy, staying fit, staying focused. Some weeks you do well and come up on top, but it always catches up on you. We work our asses off during the week when we get time at home just to pay to keep doing it."
The year hasn’t been easy for Thomas. Since arriving in Canada, all he has to show for is a few second place finishes at small rodeos and a lot of broken bones. Already this season, the cowboy has broke his wrist, hand and ribs, all the while continuing to battle through lingering injuries that include a broken tailbone, ruptured knee and broken orbital bone.
"You get injured a hell of a lot more here and your body gets worn down because the calibre of horses are outstanding," Thomas said.
The strain on his body, however, he can live with; the strain on his mind is a whole different animal.
"It’s been a mental strain," Thomas said. "It’s heavily financially straining. And when you do draw good, tough horses if you’re head isn’t right then you’re not going to do as well."
His goal is to one day compete at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, until then he’ll continue to make a name for himself in a business that at times can be subjective at best.
"It’s a great lifestyle and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else," Thomas said.
Australian cowboy Anthony Thomas rode all three of his horses in the bareback and saddlebronc events to capture the buckle in both. Thomas was also named the high-point champion at the Manitoba Finals Rodeo at the Keystone Centre over the weekend.
Souris’ Jordyn Swanson finished fourth in the saddlebronc, while Tyler Winters finished eighth.
Dauphin’s Lance Huska finished seventh in the bareback event after scoring a 63 in the second go-round, but having to pull out due to medical reasons before his third ride.
Justin Bridgeman, from Rapid City, narrowly edged Lenore’s Shane Brown and Oak River’s Darryl Gerrard to win the tie down roping event. Bridgeman had the fastest time of 8.7 seconds on his first calf.
Lenore’s Joe King dominated the steer wrestling event, posting sub-five second times on his first two steers. Brown, Neepawa’s Bryce Kulbacki and King’s brother Charlie King rounded out the top four.
Chanse Cutler was the junior steer riding champion, Grunthal’s Kayden Turel finished fourth.
Alonsa’s Dawn Vandersteen had the fastest total time and won the average in the ladies barrel racing. Erin Hagan, of Virden, was third, while Onanole’s Justine Cornelsen was fifth.
Baylee Graham, from Carberry, finished third in the junior girls barrel racing.
Ben Switzer and Brady Chappel roped three steers in 18.9 seconds to win the team roping event.
Kipling’s Cody Floyd, 17, beat out Mark Fraser to capture the bull riding event. Fraser, who led going into the third go-round was bucked off his final bull, while Floyd scored 80 points in his final ride to capture the buckle. Strathclair’s Derek Glenn finished fifth, while Austin’s Duane Bueckert and Napinka’s Brett Green finished tied for seventh.
» Brandon Sun
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 22, 2012