WAVERLY, Kan. – The truest form of competitor comes out at the most unexpected of times.
Michael Jordan’s defining moment came in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, when he battled the flu but still scored 38 points in the Chicago Bulls’ victory over the Utah Jazz.
For bareback rider Jess Pope, that moment came in early July when he was sidelined with a torn plantar facia in his right foot. The injury can cause intense pain for an extended time. Pope took a few weeks off; when he returned, he quickly jumped into a race for the 2022 world championship.
“I’m excited about going back to the finals and being in a race for the world title,” said Pope, 24, of Waverly, Kansas. “Other than the injury, it was a fun year to be rodeoing. There’s a lot of young talent out there that pushes everybody to become better bareback riders.”
He actually fits into that category, though he’s now an established veteran at a young age. He earned $159,259 through the season and returns to the National Finals Rodeo for the third straight year as the second-ranked bareback rider in the standings. He did pretty well in his first two adventures to ProRodeo’s grand finale, winning the average title by having the best 10-round cumulative score in 2020 and ’21.