Bull­fight­ing for Type 1 Di­a­betes.

Serve Daily - - NEWS - By Ed Helmick for Serve Daily

SPAN­ISH FORK — Rodeo bull­fight­ing is what rodeo clowns do to pro­tect a bull rider who has got­ten bucked off and may be at­tacked by the bull if not dis­tracted. That job has evolved into its own rodeo event now known as freestyle bull­fight­ing.

It is a com­pet­i­tive event like all rodeo events with two judges each scor­ing the ag­gres­sive­ness of the bull and the agility of the bull­fighter, his abil­ity to keep the at­ten­tion of the bull, and also his sense of show­man­ship.

For this type of event spe­cially bred Mex­i­can bulls are used be­cause they are smaller, quicker, and “smart.” The arena ac­tion is dan­ger­ous and po­ten­tially deadly, even with pro­tec­tive vests, hip pads and some wear knee guards. As a spec­ta­tor sport, it can be an adrenalin rush that puts you at the edge of your sta­dium seat.

Freestyle bull­fight­ing was brought to the Span­ish Fork Fair­grounds Arena Satur­day night, Septem­ber 23, by Gary Jones as a fundrais­ing pro­ject for Type 1 di­a­betes re­search. Gary’s son, Westlee, was di­ag­nosed with Type 1 di­a­betes years ago. A raf­fle was also part of the evening.

It was a wet, cold evening and the arena floor was muddy. When the ac­tion started with 1,000-pound bulls in a con­test with a 150-pound man the au­di­ence stopped shiv­er­ing in the cold with tun­nel vi­sion fo­cused on the play­ers. The dan­ger to the bull­fighter was ob­vi­ous and il­lus­trated sev­eral times, but with­out se­ri­ous in­jury.

Gary Jones had been a well-known rodeo clown and bull­fighter for 14 years and in 1991 and 1992 was a Na­tional Fi­nals Wran­gler Bull­fighter. He re­tired and moved to Payson to be­come a re­al­tor with Re/Max in Span­ish Fork. Then, the rodeo days called him again and he wanted to get back in the arena as a bull­fighter. At the age of 48, with the help of some sports medicine peo­ple and a rugged phys­i­cal con­di­tion­ing pro­gram Gary re­turned to the rodeo arena in the 2012 Fi­esta Days Rodeo in Span­ish fork.

Gary’s son Westlee grew up watch­ing his dad’s bull­fight­ing videos and was 10 years old when his dad got back into bull­fight­ing in 2012. Westlee’s dream was to be a bull­fighter like his Dad. At age 16 with care­ful mon­i­tor­ing of his blood sugar by his mother, Cyndi, he was ap­proved to com­pete as a bull­fighter in the Septem­ber 23 event. Be­com­ing the first freestyle bull­fighter with Type 1 di­a­betes at age16 is a re­mark­able achieve­ment.

This one-night bull­fight­ing event raised $20,000 for the Ju­ve­nile Di­a­betes Re­search Foun­da­tion (JDRF).In the four years that Gary Jones has been host­ing this event a to­tal of $52,000 has been raised. JDRF spon­sors $530 mil­lion in sci­en­tific re­search in 17 coun­tries. The goal is to de­velop tech­nol­ogy to make life eas­ier for the Type 1 di­a­betic and find a cure.

Photo: Steve Gray

Bull ghter Tan­ner Zer­net­ski, the win­ner of the evening event.

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