18-year-old Chris Smith's living room is now filled with saddles and buckles he won two weeks ago when he was named the Wrangler Bareback, Saddle Bronc and All-Around Champion for the Florida State High School Finals Rodeo.
But Chris had a hard time getting started. He was diagnosed with a Wilms' tumor at age two and had his left kidney removed. So his parents weren't too eager to let him train.
“They didn't think it was a good idea for my other kidney in case I got hurt, but eventually they just finally gave in," said Smith.
Chris started competing when he was 15 and trains year-round.
The teen practices his skills a few days a week, and at least two days on his back porch riding a manual bucking horse.
"This is just pretty much practicing good habits, starting inside the chute until you ride."
Well, his practice is paying off. Chris has earned an spot on the Florida State Team and is headed to New Mexico in two weeks to compete in the National High School Finals Rodeo.
There he'll battle it out for cash prizes and scholarships.
"When I win, I don't really focus on the prizes, I just focus on riding like a champ, if I ride like a champ, every time I go out everything will fall into place," he said.
But the teen is making sure he's ready to wrangle!
"I've just been riding the heck out of some bucking machines, basically like a simulator and getting a lot mentally prepared," said Smith, "Really I just want to have the title."
The high school senior is already getting calls from rodeo colleges throughout the country who want him on their teams. Top on his list is Panola College in East Texas.
After that he plans on going pro…making a career out of riding the rodeo.
Copyright 2009 The E.W. Scripps Co. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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