By: Kendra Santos
“This is a perfect week for this rodeo,” noted bareback rider Richmond Champion after winning perf one of the semifinals at the $562,500 World Champions Rodeo Alliance’s July 20-24 Days of ’47 Cowboy Games & Rodeo in Salt Lake City Tuesday evening. “With the other rodeos going on, you can easily make this work. And with all the money a guy can win here, why wouldn’t you?”
Champion—is that not the perfect last name for any world-class athlete??—racked up 87 big ones on Sankey Rodeo Company’s Shoutin Shoes to take last night’s victory lap.
“He was everything I thought he’d be,” said the happy champ. “He was electric. He showed off, and let me show off a little, too. Pretty awesome to get a win like this on a Tuesday night in Salt Lake City.”
He picked up $2,100, including the $1,600 perf-win check and $500 appearance fee all contestants pocket here. Oh, and did I mention there are no entry fees at this rodeo?
The rest of Champion’s week includes Spanish Fork, Utah, today; Ogden, Utah, tomorrow; and Nampa, Idaho on Friday, before being back here for Saturday night’s Gold Medal Round, in which Champion and all others who advance to this rodeo’s grand finale will be riding for $25,000 and a gold medal.
Talk of gold medals brings the Olympics to mind. And with the Tokyo Olympics kicking off later this week, it seems like the perfect time to mention that Richmond’s wife, Paige Lawrence Champion, is an Olympian who competed at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in pairs figure skating.
“She’s a badass,” said her proud cowboy husband. “Paige is now an executive performance coach, and she helps me in every way.”
Rodeo connected this perfect pair. Paige’s dad, Jimmy Lawrence, owns Prime Time Rodeo up in Kennedy, Saskatchewan, Canada, and raises bucking horses. Richmond and Paige now make their home in Stevensville, Montana.
It’s no secret that bareback riders have been the most endangered set of athletes in our sport. But according to Champion, there’s huge hope on the horizon.
“More and more bareback riders are coming out of the woodwork,” he said. “Bareback riding is growing massively, and all this opportunity keeps us coming back for more. Thanks to TV, a lot of kids are getting to see the rush of our event, and are excited about it.
“Young cowboys are getting to see us ride for big money at these big events on these big stages. Once kids try it, like it, realize it’s fun and that they can make a living at it, they’re hooked. Like I tell them, ‘I have the best job in the world.’”