Taking the reins and whizzing through the cloverleaf pattern, Sherri Odell dominated the barrel racing competition in the Kansas Professional Rodeo Association (KPRA) and won […]
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
Russell Friend is just starting his fourth year in the Senior Pro association, but he has established himself as a leader, as someone actively promoting the association, and as a top competitor. He has won the Reserve World Champion Bull Riding title for the last three years. He is the representative for the Canadian Senior Pro Rodeo Association and works to insure that rodeo schedules between the two associations mesh. “I represent Canadian Senior Pro Rodeo at the NSPRA board meetings and essentially act as a conduit of information between the two. This function has been quite important in the last six months with all the changes that have taken place in the NSPRA.”
Russell got started in rodeo after the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. “I was on the Canadian Olympic team competing in wrestling and was asked if I wanted to ride bulls. That was back when the bull riding only events were just starting. I had a lot of success early on here in Canada and took off from there. I was 25 at the time and I set a goal of being able to enter and compete at the best rodeos on earth. And going hand-in-glove with that, I wanted to say I had gotten on some of the best bulls around. That was a pretty cool time.” He was a “carded athlete” in Canada and as such received medical, tuition, and a stipend to train, but the financial reward possible in bull riding far outweighed the government’s support.
The lifestyle of elite Olympic athletes is best described as Spartan; no fast food, never a drink, and pure diligence to a training regimen. “There were several years where I went without any fast food. With bull riding, I could have a cheeseburger once in awhile; I could have camaraderie with other rodeo athletes, and I get paid based on my own success! And I enjoyed bull riding!”
He has enjoyed the travel associated with rodeo and compares it to his life as an Olympic athlete. “I’ve traveled all over the world competing in wrestling but I couldn’t tell you much about the people or locations other than the airport and the gym. With rodeo I can stop and meet people and see the country. I love that.”
Attitude in bull riding is critical as Russell explains, “The guy that wants to ‘ride bulls’ is different from the guy who wants to be a ‘bull rider’. The guy who wants to be a ‘bull rider’ is always looking to improve and learn more about the sport. The guy that wants to ‘ride bulls’, is accepting what he’s given.” Russell spends hours in keeping himself fit and ready to compete. “You have to be fit. You have to have core strength and fantastic balance.” He uses his wrestling skills to keep himself ready for bull riding. As a testament to his discipline to conditioning, Russell just won his 18th Provincial Wrestling Championship at age 43, against all age competitors. “No other wrestler has won 18 Provincial titles in Canada. Wrestling puts your body in positions that test your core strength and balance.” His philosophy about training is that if he’s working out early in the morning or late at night, there’s a good chance your competition is not. He strongly believes in the adage, “The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare.” Russell is grateful to all the cowboys he competes against, “Those guys push everyone to do more preparation and ride better.”
He makes his home in Irrcana, Alberta with his wife Jennifer and son, Cash. Between bull riding events, Russell operates an oil field fencing company. He is also the president of the newly formed Bull Riders Canada, (www.bullriderscanada.ca) the largest bull riding organization in Canada.