DUNCAN, Okla. (AP) - Rowdy Swanson takes a deep breath, feet away from his 900-pound ride for the next eight seconds. He closes his eyes, trying to visualize his plan falling into place and whispers to himself "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me."
What happens next is such an adrenaline rush, such an undeniable thrill, that most people cannot remember it after it happens. Rowdy mounts the steer and is taken on a roller coaster ride, getting thrown up and down by the animal with incredible force.
It's what Rowdy, a 13-year-old youth bull rider from Empire, loves most. He has competed since he was four years old and has aspirations to become a professional rider in the years to come, The Duncan Banner reports.
With the way things have transpired in the early part of Swanson's career, he's certainly on the right track. Swanson will take on the best riders in the world for the third straight year at the Youth Bull Riding World Finals from August 7-10 in Abilene, Texas.
"I'm just comfortable when I ride them," Swanson said. "It's hard but I like the rush when I'm riding. It's what I want to do when I grow up."
Starting his career at just four years old, Rowdy Swanson grew up at riding events and rodeos. His father Jarrel rode bulls for the later part of his teen years and was bringing his sons to rodeos as soon as they were old enough to go. It was there that Rowdy told his dad he wanted to start riding, and he hasn't looked back. He started out riding sheep, moved up to riding calves and steer and will eventually move up to riding bulls when he comes of age.
"I support him in anything he wants to do, it just so happens that this is what he loves most," Jarrel Swanson said. "It's not an event you exactly want your kids involved in, but when they love it as much as Rowdy does and they're that good, you can't stop them."
The four day finals event in August will be based on a points system created from the rankings of two judges after competitors ride the stock for eight seconds. Points are given on a scale of 1-25 for the rider and stock, with the top possible score at 100. As of now, Swanson's top score is an 87. The competition will come from all over, including riders from Australia, Brazil, Mexico and around the United States. About 75-80 riders will make up the field in Swanson's age group.
Success on the steer is nothing new for Rowdy Swanson, who recently earned a saddle, the award for the top scoring member in each youth bull riding association. By placing in the top two of his riding association this year, Swanson qualified for the event for the first time after being invited the two years before.
His passion for riding is clear in the time he spends working on his craft, as Swanson attends rodeo and riding camps every year.
"We're always trying to put him around people who know the event best," Jarrel Swanson said. "We want him to learn as much as he can because of how committed he is."
The Swansons received a scare that they thought would jeopardize Rowdy's riding career in May, when a basketball injury led to a fractured hip. The family had initially been told he had bulging discs in his back, something that could have put a hold on Rowdy's dreams.
But injuries have never stopped Rowdy. When he was younger, Swanson broke his right arm but was back at it the next day, predominantly using his left arm to ride with a cast on his right.
"If you weren't sure how much he loved doing it, that says it all," Jarrel Swanson said. "He didn't fare too well because that's something he had never done before, but it just showed how much he enjoys riding."
Rowdy hasn't been able to compete since suffering the hip injury, making the return to the stadium even more exciting than usual. He can start competing next month at the Texas Youth Bullriders Finals.
"I just want it to be July already," Rowdy Swanson said.
After not faring as well as he wanted to at last year's Youth World Finals, the stakes will be raised in 2013.
"I didn't do great last year because I didn't have a great steer," Rowdy Swanson said. "I think I'll be able to do a lot better this year."
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