Bull rider who’s all heart
BULL RIDER Bradie Gray’s heart stopped beating when a giant bull stomped on his chest during a US rodeo — and now he’s going to show how strong that heart is by getting back in the saddle.
The 21-year-old endured multiple rounds of surgery following the 2017 incident on the competitive American college rodeo circuit in Wyoming and his parents were told there was little chance their son would survive.
Now Gray is preparing to get on a bull in front of his home crowd in Tamworth, to prove he’s not just back on his feet but beaten the nightmares that plagued him after his near-death experience.
“After Wyoming I was dreaming about dying and waking up in a panic, unable to breathe,” Gray said. “It was during a time when I was recovering from surgery and I had not yet trusted my body.
“I was stressing out that something was going to go wrong.
“With time they have gone away and I don’t think about it anymore.”
Gray’s 55kg and 175cm frame is relatively small for a bull rider.
Since 2014 he has suffered from a badly bruised heart, nine cracked ribs, collapsed lung, broken collarbone, torn groin, two broken jaws and a broken back.
But being taller and heavier is no guarantee of pro- tection, either. In 2012 the Australian Medical Journal said bull riding has the highest rate of injury of any rodeo sport.
A study at Rockhampton Hospital in Queensland found one in every 130 bull rides results in a hospital admission, with limbs, chest and brain damage the most common injuries.
To help get him back into shape Gray enlisted the help of a nutritionist and has been hitting the gym like a man possessed.
But he’s also had some unexpected support in his corner.
“Muay Thai fighter Ben Burrage has been helping me with fitness and sparring,” he said.
“People have told me that I am not strong enough or big enough or that I should give up,
“But I want to prove a lot of people wrong. Bull riding has been part of my life since I was a baby.”
Burrage said Gray is a very hard worker.
“He’s just got the right mentality to push through the hard things, even in training; he’s one of those blokes who was always going to succeed in whatever he does,” Burrage said.
“The skills we use and the training gives you a high level of fitness using functional skills.
“He’s one of those blokes everyone want to train, as he gets in and has a dig and really applies himself 100 per cent to the task.”
The Professional Bull Riders Monster Energy Tour Iron Cowboy event on November 17 will attract 22 cowboys riding 52 bulls.
Those who make it through next weekend’s event will go onto the PBR Grand Finals in Townsville.
Bradie’s father Mick Gray, a bull rider himself, said he will never forget the moment last year when his son was rushed to hospital.
“My heart just jumps when I think about it, especially when it is your own child,” he said.
“I know now what I put my own mum and dad through. The majority of the crowd at Tamworth will know who he is and will get behind him. “We are so proud of him. It takes guts to work his way back.”
Bradie Gray has recovered from his near-death experience and will get back on a bull (right) at Tamworth. Main picture: Nathan Edwards