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06.09.2016
Famous Fighter Retires on the Sands of Cheyenne

The 2016 class of CBR Bullfighters for the CBR World Finals is a trio of professional athletes that have been together now for three years in Cheyenne, but for one Famous Energy Bullfighter it will be his last.

Craig Check of Tomah, Wisconsin, chose to make his last appearance as a CBR Bullfighter in front of the grandstands of the Frontier Park Arena in Cheyenne, Wyoming at the 2016 edition of the CBR World Final competition on July 25, 26.

Check, who rode bulls in high school before progressing to fighting bulls for his stock contractor brother Cory, began his career as a bullfighter in 1997 with Three Hills Rodeo. He has been on the CBR team of bullfighters since 2013.

While talking to Craig, I could tell he struggled for a long time over this decision and just because he changed his mind once or twice over his storied career, it made it even harder for him to talk about retirement. But in some ways, it was clear and even better when I heard his answer to why he will fight his last set of bulls in July in Cheyenne.

“My two girls... I have lived my dreams and gotten to do what I want and now I want to see and help them achieve their goals,” said Check from an autograph signing at the last regular season event in Del Rio, Texas.

Although Craig is on the Fox Sports CBR television broadcast each week and in 2014 he was featured on a video produced by the National Geographic for NatGeo TV, he is not the only famous athlete in the family. Check’s two daughters, Caylee Rae and Cheyenne Kae, compete in multiple rodeo events every weekend and are headed to the Jr. High National Finals this year as well.

Athletes are naturally tough individuals and are often perceived by the public to be fitter and healthier than you and I. When they call it quits we sometimes wonder why, but after 19 years of fighting bulls, Craig Check tells what it has been like for him and why he selected Cheyenne as his final performance.

 

What is the magic of Cheyenne that inspired you to use this as your last performance?

Check:  It’s the Dad... my permit year I rode bulls two years in that arena and it’s really cool to be able to go back there and fight bulls for three years now, lots of history there. People from all around the world know about Cheyenne.

What challenges you in Cheyenne?

Check: It’s a tight (small) arena and the bulls stay right there on top of you.

Does it make you work differently?

Check: No, not me, I take every bull riding the same. I am here and work for these top cowboys that are trying to go for their dreams and goals and a world title, but it is pretty cool to be part of it.

What is the most important skill for fighting bulls?

Check: A good head on your shoulders – I learned watching videos; it helped that I used to ride so I knew the warning signs of a rider in trouble. You also need to be in good shape, but the right frame of mind is most important in my opinion. You are putting yourself out there and not everyone can do it.

Do you hear the crowd and does anything distract you?

Check: I can hear the guys on the back of the chutes, but it does not distract me. My job is to keep each rider safe and I focus on that.

Do you learn the bulls?

Check: Yes, the last four years with CBR I have seen the contractors bring many of the same bulls and they throw a new one in and they will guide you a little, and we will ask contractors when new bulls appear on the buck order list, we do our homework that hopeful will give the rider a fair shot, that’s our job too.

What are you going to do with your spare time now?

Check: I will be hauling my kids every weekend and maybe with all the frequent flyer miles I will take my wife on a vacation. She is looking forward to not being my travel agent anymore.

What will you miss?

Check: The great people that I met over the years and the traveling… good friends and the CBR family.

What is your favorite event?

Check: Cheyenne World Finals – the CBR World Finals atmosphere in that arena on Monday and Tuesday night, the announcer’s sound in his voice and the adrenaline of those bull riders is just incredible to be around.

What is the difference from event to event?

Check: The ground, I had to fight barefoot one time because my shoes kept getting sucked into the mud.

What is Cheyenne’s ground like?

Check: The sands in Cheyenne are great. It rained a lot before last year’s performance and the ground was still not bad because of the sand.

What is one of your most memorable moments in Cheyenne?

Check: When Cody Teel was hurt last year, we (bullfighters) discussed and we all knew he was hurt and he couldn’t move very fast, after he was off on the ground and not moving, I stepped in thru there and luckily the bull took me instead of Cody and that’s what I was there for – no doubt it was what I was supposed to do.

 

At the Cheyenne Frontier Park arena, the bullfighters of the Championship Bull Riding World Finals risk life and limb to protect the bull riders.

Once a rider is thrown off, the bullfighters' job is to rush in to grab the attention of the bull, allowing the rider to escape. Injuries are a constant threat, but the safety of the bull riders is their top priority.

 

“The way I do it is I just, I'm not watching the bull, how it bucks, I'm watching the bull rider all the time. If I see that bull rider getting in trouble, it's all just timing and just watching that cowboy so if he's thrown underneath there I can try to get into between the bull and the rider and take the hit for him.” -- Craig Check


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