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Local bull rider wins big at world finals after battling injuries, alcohol addiction

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BLACKFOOT — Blackfoot, Idaho is the perfect place to foster a lifelong passion for rodeo. Just ask Brady Oleson.

Over the years, Oleson has learned bull riding is not just a lifestyle but something that can quickly turn into a life-long passion. He got his first ‘big bull’ at the ripe age of 12 and riding was something Oleson quickly latched onto.

“I don’t know exactly what it is,” says Oleson. “I just know that I played other sports growing up and I loved playing them, but there was just something about bull riding where I like it more than the others. I made it my priority when I got older and it kind of overtook everything else.”

Oleson grew up in a rodeo family with two brothers who rode bulls and a sister who competes in barrel racing. His childhood friends have competed in rodeos and his grandparents own land out in the Wapello area, allowing Brady and his siblings to grow up around cattle, horses and the stereotypical western lifestyle.

This wild-west way of life came to a head earlier this month. Oleson delivered the highest-marked ride of his career to win Round 1 of his first-ever Professional Bull Riding (PBR) World Finals in Fort Worth, Texas, netting 91 world points and $35,000 on May 13.

“It’s the highest score of my career, and it was a pretty shocking experience,” says Oleson. “It didn’t feel real. It didn’t set in that night, that’s for sure.”

Even more amazing is that this was Oleson’s first PBR World Finals that he had ever competed in. Not only that, but he had just come back from a long break, due to multiple bull-riding related injuries that kept him from riding and caused him to develop a struggle with alcohol addiction.

Injuries and addiction

At an event in early 2018, Oleson landed awry on his left shoulder, causing bone damage to the socket.

“It was my free arm, not the one I hang on with, so I kept riding through it,” says Oleson. “I made it all the way until April, and I was in a lot of pain so it wasn’t great and I wasn’t doing the best, but I was still in the top 35 so it was pretty cool. I just wanted to keep going. ”

Things came to a halt when Oleson then broke his riding wrist after getting it caught in a rope, causing the bone to break and tearing the tendons in his wrist. He needed to have surgery.

“It was a rough year,” says Oleson.

Without the ability to do the thing that he loved most, Oleson went through a dark time emotionally.

“I kind of struggled with life during that time,” says Oleson. “I kind of lost my way in life and found myself in a bottle a lot.”

In 2021, after a year and a half in recovery from his injuries and struggling with alcohol abuse, Oleson checked himself into Renaissance Ranch, a treatment facility in Bluffdale, Utah.

“It was tough at first. I was in pretty bad shape emotionally, mentally stuff like that,” says Oleson. “But going through it, it was one of the best things of my life, honestly. Even today, when I’m back in the Idaho/Utah area, I try to hang around that treatment center. They have a pretty good group of people, a community I guess.”

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Courtesy Brady Oleson

Getting back to bull riding was a huge part of Oleson’s decision to get help and focus on his sobriety.

“It was my last resort. It’s not something that anyone wants to do. I just found myself in such bad shape that there were not a lot of options,” says Oleson. “I could tell I wasn’t getting better no matter how hard I was trying to. It seemed kind of hopeless. So then I knew that I needed some actual help.”

Back in the saddle

After graduating from both the inpatient and outpatient treatment, Oleson was ready to get back on the bulls and he made headlines while doing so.

In January, Oleson competed in what he called “a minor league” bull-riding competition, which is part of the qualification process if you want to make it to the World Finals. Oleson won the first event and received an invite to be in the Top 35 bull riders.

Every weekend since, he has been competing and eventually made it to his first-ever World Finals, where he won first place in the first round.

“That was crazy…my first ever world finals. I had a good bull drawn, I didn’t know exactly what he was, but I rode him and they said 91 and a quarter points,” says Oleson. “And that kind of just shocked me.”

When asked what advice he would give to those struggling with addiction and sobriety, Oleson wants people to remember to do it for themselves, not anybody else.

“It’s not an easy thing. It’s not something that just happens. You have to put effort into it,” says Oleson. “But also, there’s a lot of good things that can come from it. Like I said, if people told me that I’d be where I’m at today, like they did once I first got [to the treatment center], I thought that will never happen to me. Just keep going and if you mess up, just get back on track.”

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