CALGARY - It wasn’t until the signature event that a Canadian won the top prize of $100,000 at the 100th Calgary Stampede rodeo.
On the final ride of Sunday’s bull-riding competition, Chad Besplug of Claresholm, Alta., scored 87 points atop Kish This in front of an appreciative crowd that braved rainy conditions to watch the final round of the 10-day event.
"They were unbelievable," said Besplug, who edged out fellow Canadian cowboy Aaron Roy of Yellow Grass, Sask., by just one point. "This being the 100th year, I remember thinking driving in (that) this is pretty special.
"All the cowboys that have been here before ... I got goosebumps driving in here thinking about that."
Besplug said becoming the bull-riding champion during the Stampede’s centennial year is "worth more than the $100,000."
Besplug’s sister Jill is a two-time champion of the ladies' barrel-racing event, winning at the Stampede in 2001 and ’02.
Besplug, Roy and defending champion Shane Proctor of Mooresville, N.C., were the only three to qualify for the championship round. On their first rides, all three were bucked off, so they had to do it all over again to decide the 2012 winner.
After Proctor barely held on for eight seconds and a score of 66.5, Roy posted an 86-point ride atop Riskey Remedy to guarantee a Canadian winner.
"I’m always rooting for Canadians," said Besplug, who went on to edge out Roy for the title. "Everybody knows that."
Cory Solomon needed a rope-off against fellow Texan Fred Whitfield to capture the $100,000 top prize, after both men posted times of 8.1 seconds in the final round. Solomon then laid down a time of 7.7 seconds in the extra session to beat his boyhood idol by 0.7 seconds.
Whitfield, a three-time champion at the Stampede, was the first to congratulate Solomon.
"That was just like a dream come true," Solomon said. "I’m glad we could share the moment together. We both made two good runs. I just thank God it worked out for me."
Kaycee Feild of Elk Ridge, Utah, needed a buck-off to beat Dusty LaValley of Bezanson, Alta., in the bareback championship showdown. LaValley actually used a re-ride to match Feild’s score of 89. Feild then scored 90 points atop Nelly Kelly to narrowly edge past LaValley, who had an 88-point ride on Raggedy Ann.
"The ride-off is so much fun," Feild said. "I love getting on bucking horses. Dusty’s the same way. He can ride all day, every day. To have him to compete against in the tie-breaker is just awesome. I couldn’t be any happier."
In rainy and muddy conditions during the steer wrestling finals, American Trevor Knowles was first out of the gate and recorded the top time of 3.4 seconds, which was just 0.1 seconds from tying the arena record set by Curtis Cassidy of Donalda, Alta., in 2009.
"If someone throws one in 3.4, you’ve got to come with the heat and you might make mistakes," said Knowles, who also won the top prize at the Stampede in 2009. "I was wanting to just go first and make a great run and do my job.
Unfortunately for Rowdy Hays of Rocky Mountain House, Alta., he broke the barrier in the steer wrestling final and finished fourth with a time of 16.0 seconds. He still earned $10,000 for his efforts.
2010 saddle bronc winner Wade Sundell of Boxholm, Iowa, added a second Stampede title to his collection with an 88.5-point ride atop Get Smart in the finals.
"Everybody that’s here, if you stub your toe, they’re going to beat you," Sundell said. "It’s the best of the best here. To come out on top of everybody, it’s a great honour."
Rylan Geiger of Bracken, Sask., scored 87.5 points atop Pedro to finish tied with American Cody DeMoss for second spot and a $20,000 payday.
After qualifying for the championship round by finishing second out of 12 competitors on Wildcard Sunday, Sue Smith of Blackfoot, Idaho went one better on Saturday. She won the ladies' barrel-racing event with an impressive time of 17.53 seconds on her horse Claimer in wet and muddy conditions.
Lindsay Sears of Nanton, Alta., qualified for the barrel-racing final but her horse Martha slipped while rounding the first turn. She still finished the race in a time of 43.46 seconds and earned $10,000.