Bareback rider Richmond Champion says the NWSS is his ‘honey hole’ |

Bareback rider Richmond Champion says the NWSS is his ‘honey hole’

Starting his Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rookie season in 2012, Texas bareback rider Richmond Champion showed up to the National Western Stock Show that year and won a round against top-flight competition.

| Texas bareback cowboy Richie Champion let loose with a yell after his reride effort aboard Calgary Stampede Rodeo's Shadow Warrior in the championship round of rodeo action at the 2014 National Western Stock Show. Champion would learn seconds later the high-flying ride would earn him 87 points and a tie for the buckle with Austin Foss.

It was a portent of things to come. In 2013, Champion won the second annual Colorado Vs The World Rodeo and pocketed almost $12,000 from the one-day event. The following year was even better, as Champion snagged a back-to-back Colorado Vs The World title, along with earning the prestigious NWSS rodeo's trophy buckle. At the time of Lincoln Rogers' interview with Champion on Friday, Jan. 13, he had returned to Denver to win his third Colorado Vs The World Rodeo title, along with posting an 85-point ride to unofficially take the lead in a round of PRCA action at the NWSS. Calling Denver's NWSS his "honey hole," Champion sat down after a successful ride to talk about his thoughts on competing in the mile-high venue. (Note: questions and answers have been edited for length and content)

Rogers: In your rookie year of 2012, you came into Denver and won a round of the NWSS' PRCA rodeo. Then you returned in January 2013 to win the Colorado Vs The World Rodeo, which is a $90,000 one-day event. Tell me how that felt to get your first big money title?

Lincoln Rogers | | Richie Champion scored 87 points on Cervi's Hell's Fire Hostage during the final head-to-head round to win the bareback riding event at the 2nd annual Colorado Vs. The World rodeo at Denver's 2013 National Western Stock Show (January 12, 2013). It was Champion's first big money check in his career.

Champion: I was pumped. I had never won a big check. Winning $12,000, it was — even for my dad, because he always pushed me, but was still a little apprehensive about me being able to make a living at it. He was like, huh, if you really do this all the time, it would be a good thing. In my mind, I was like, what does a guy do with $12,000? I didn't have to worry about fees. So I rodeoed hard and ended up 20th that year, in 2013.

Rogers: Then you came back in 2014 and won the Colorado Vs The World Rodeo again, along with the NWSS' PRCA rodeo. After winning more money in another Colorado Vs The World Rodeo, you picked up your first big, major historic rodeo win, right here. Tell me how that felt?

| Texas bareback cowboy Richie Champion proved last year's win in the Colorado Vs. The World Rodeo event was no fluke, coming up with this clutch 92-point ride in the head-to-head matchup to win over $10,000 and a second consecutive title in the crowd-pleasing rodeo in the first Saturday of the National Western Stock Show. Champion's 92 point ride was a personal best and NWSS arena record.

Champion: You win somewhere, you get confidence there. And that's what this place has always been for me. The second I am coming down I-70 and I see the Denver Coliseum, I am like (paused and rubbed hands together) all right, here we go. I am home. (laughed) I can't wait to get in here and drink some Tang and set my gear back down. There are all kinds of little things that I look forward to about the NWSS rodeo besides riding here.

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Lincoln: What are those little things?

| Rodeo announcer Boyd Polhamus interviewed Seth Hardwick (center) and Richie Champion (right) on the arena floor after their high point rides in the final round qualified them to ride against each other in a winner take all head-to-head round for a further $10,000. The cowboys had the chance to choose the bronc they wanted to ride and explain their choice to the crowd. Champion was the eventual winner after a record breaking 92-point ride later in the evening.

Champion: The coffee. The hospitality. The great people. The beer stand, right there. (motioned with hands to an area behind where the interview took place) If things go great, the beer stand is right there. If things go bad, the beer stand is right there. (laughed) It is a comfortable place for me. There are great stock contractors here, the Cervis and Calgary and everybody they bring in.

Rogers: So 2017 rolls around and you won your third Colorado Vs The World Rodeo out of six total Colorado Vs The World Rodeos at the NWSS. It seems you really like the format of that one-day team rodeo.

| Texas bareback cowboy Richie Champion scored 85 points aboard high-flying Calgary Stampede Rodeo Company's Tootsie Roll to win the Friday afternoon performance at the 2017 National Western Stock Show in Denver, CO (January 13, 2017).

Champion: I love it. The openings where all (the competitors) get to go out and be in the middle of it all is awesome. Then you get to do the interviews with Boyd inside the arena and the crowd is into it, they love it and they're getting to learn about it. I live for this stuff. It's weird that I like it so much because it is such a long day, but I love momentum. I feel better getting on today because I got on two yesterday. I felt better on my second one because I got on my first one, whether it went well or not. I love getting on horses and the more the better. I get more comfortable. You just find a groove fast that way, especially for me. As the day went on, the better and better I felt, instead of being the longer the day went, the more tired I got.

Rogers: Is there anything you want to tell the rodeo fans at Denver's NWSS?

Champion: Thank you for the support and thank you for coming. We don't have this without the fans. I would like to thank the committee that does such hard work to make sure everybody knows about it. In rodeo, we've got room for everybody. And keep up the high energy. Get loud and rowdy. We're cowboys. We love to be loud and rowdy! (laughed) It's why we love it. It's all the way around, from the bucking chutes to the grandstands, they are just as important. Denver has everything a big, great rodeo needs. You walk back (after a ride) and people stick their hands out. They love it and that is what the sport is about.❖