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The American:
A New Concept in Competition

Joe Beaver
Both Fred Whitfield and eight-time World
Champion Joe Beaver (above with Sharon)
received exemptions to rope
at The American.

Sometimes it's fun being an armchair expert. I love not having to fight the traffic, or the crowds, and I am reminded that everything that happens inside of the arena looks much easier from the outside. The Sochi Olympics and The American Rodeo are two of the recent events I have loved having front row leather chair seats, 20 feet from my television. In both events, history was made with rodeo athletes and Olympians alike trying to prove themselves.

Patrick Gottsch, owner of RFD TV and Randy Bernard founder of PBR joined together to bring to fruition ideas that cowboys and cowgirls since the 40's have talked about, dreamed of and visualized: an equal playing field, great stock, and even conditions in order to showcase talents of horses and riders, culminating in cash awards equal to those shared in other sports by athletes of equal ability.

Dan Mortensen
Dan Mortensen, seven-time Bronc Riding World
and All Around Champion came out of
retirement for The American exemption.

The American seated the top 10 competitors in seven rodeo events following the National Finals Rodeo and the Professional Bull Riders Finals, added five qualifying slots in six of the events and 10 in the barrel race for top qualifiers from outside associations. RFD brought 146 Gold buckle contestants representing past and current champions, including exemptions for some of the industries greatest champions, Joe Beaver, Fred Whitfield, Dan Mortensen, Jake Barnes, Clay O'Brien, Speed Williams, Ote Berry, Justin McBride and Charmayne James. Eight-time World Champion Roy Cooper summed it up by saying he had been to 32 state fairs, watched Michael Jordan play basketball, Mohammed Ali box, Elvis sing at the Astrodome, George Strait receive his Entertainer of the Year Awards, sat front row at the Kentucky Derby, but to date had never seen anything as exciting as The American.

Fred Whitfield
Fred Whitfield holds eight World
titles including All Around Champion and
accepted an exemption to The American.
Check out Fred's new book,
"Gold Buckles Don't Lie."

After one long go around culminating in the top four from each event moving on to a sudden death short go, the one day American rewarded each event winner with $100,000 payoff, $25,000 to second and an unprecedented one million dollar bonus to be split among qualifiers who beat the professionals in their respective events. Though the barrel race had two qualifiers who had a chance at the million dollar bonus, a 21-year-old political science student from Tarleton State, Richmond Champion was the only qualifier to win his event qualifying for the one million dollar bonus for besting the top 10 professional bareback riders. Like Gold Medalist Gracie Gold, who's to say that names don't matter; Richie Champion is the inaugural American Bare Back Riding Champion and the one million dollar bonus winner. Proof that when the pressure was the highest and the lights the brightest, a Champion's talent prevailed.

Maximizing the experience was the addition of past champions brought into aid Justin McKee's announcing with exceptional color commentary. Ty Murray shared his insight throughout the telecast aided by Roy Cooper, Rope Meyers, Pete Hawkins, Dean Tufton and an inspiring, intuitive commentary in the barrel race by National Finalist Fallon Taylor.

I love being inspired, one of the reasons I enjoy Bob Costa's Olympic commentary, including the features on competitors' trial and tribulations in their journey toward the defining moment that creates the momentum for success; making the long hours of practice and preparation, days of visualizing and surviving the disappointments of defeat worth while. All similarities to The American's cowboy and cowgirl counterparts.

Another similarity is the terminology that transcends disciplines. Gold Medalist Ted Legity talked about angles, shoulders and hip alignment, core body strength, shifting weight on outside ski in turns; 18 year-old Gold Medalist Mikaela Shiffrin talked about cross training, upper and lower body control and the importance of achieving position to maximize speed out of each balanced turn. Sound familiar? Steer Wrestler Rope Meyers talked about squaring hips, visualizing, consistent and effective practice. Ote Berry demonstrated physical conditioning by losing 50 pounds. It is said that no competitor works harder than Tuf Cooper, that JB Mauney had to be reminded to ride because he loves it, not for the accolades, and Roy Cooper believes that personal confidence is the biggest piece of the puzzle. Whether the outfit includes a cowboy hat or a pair of skates or ski poles, the competitors' hearts are similar.

Winston Churchill said "Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it's the courage to continue that counts." The heart of the athlete is pure and somewhat simple. He asks for an even playing field, and an opportunity to practice, prepare, visualize and execute his discipline, gathering the momentum and courage to make changes to try again, again and again.

The American will be an annual event and the qualifications offer all competitors a chance to follow their dreams and qualify for future American contests!