Bull riding and the addiction to danger

The audience gasps in unison as they watch 17-year-old Cody Coverchuk get tossed like a rag doll after a 6.8 second ride on a ferocious bull. Tossing his legs up and flipping him over, the bull caught Coverchuk’s helmet before throwing him into the air. Bullfighters Cody Hunt and Monty Phillips quickly intervened, distracting the bull from the unconscious Coverchuk resting at the bull’s feet.

By Ben Ingram

The arena crowd fell silent last Thursday while local bull riding phenom Cody Coverchuk lay motionless on the ground after being tossed into the air, his helmet thrown off by the bull’s horns.

The 17-year-old Coverchuk quickly came to, dazily stumbling towards the safety of a nearby gate.

“The bull just came out, he was jumping real good. When he turned back he just kind of got my feet behind me a little bit,” Coverchuk said, reflecting on what he could recall of the ride. “The next corner he was really kicking and I don’t really remember after that.”

Coverchuk spent the night in the hospital, only to return to competition the next day.

“I love getting on bulls,” he said. “The fear factor doesn’t really bother me. It’ll happen once in a while, but most of the time you get away clean.”

The June 9 competition was not the first time Coverchuk had been injured while riding. Last year in Cold Lake, the young up-and-comer broke his jaw and scratched his face when a bull turned back on him.

Despite the dangers, Coverchuk sees professional bull riding in his future. The sport could land him a scholarship for college and he hopes to compete in the Canadian Finals Rodeo some day.

While Coverchuk considers wearing a helmet during competition an absolute neccessity, veteran riders like Jody and his brother Steven Turner – ranked third and fifth in Canada, respectively – prefer to don the signature cowboy hat.

“We’re cowboys not hockey players,” Jody Turner said after the Thursday competition. Jody’s first bull didn’t perform up to par, so he was given a re-ride and opted in.

His second ride was more lively and Jody was tossed dangerously back into the chute by a bull he had difficulty getting his feet around.

“It’s a rule now, the kids have to start with helmets. They’ve kind of grown into it,” Jody said. “I put one on and I can’t get used to it, I’m stubborn in my old age.”

At 30 years of age, Jody has been riding bulls for 14 years. In a long and successful career, he said he’s “seen it all.”

“Seen wrecks, most of the time the ones that look real bad are the ones that aren’t,” he said of Coverchuk’s ride on Thursday. “It’s the ones where you think nothing’s wrong that are sometimes worse than the showy-for-the-crowd wrecks.”

Jody’s brother Steven also had a disappointing night on Thursday. Riding a bull that judge Doug Groves described as the best in the competition, Steven was quickly tossed aside.

“You always take a risk everytime you get on,” Steven said. “There’s lots of kids with talent starting out, if they can bounce back from a wreck like that and just keep getting on they’ll get better,” he said.

“Bull riding’s the biggest head game because it is so dangerous, that’s why not many people can do it and not many people can do it for long,” Steven said.

While Steven said he’d never worn a helmet in his career, he admitted that they save lives.

But, like his brother, Steven said it’s the adrenaline of bull riding that makes it addictive.

“It’s just a rush,” he said, describing a lifestyle of travel and leisure. “Between the friends and the money, it’s all good.”

It’s an addiction Coverchuk also has, one that led him to ignore the advice of his doctor and ride again on Friday.

For his mother, Lorraine, it’s just something she’ll have to live with.

“I just wanted to run out there and grab him when he was knocked out,” she said, adding that she isn’t exactly thrilled about her son’s career choice. “I gotta support him because that’s what he loves to do.”

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