On the Trail: Sage Kimzey

by Siri Stevens

Sage Kimzey, winning Pendleton in 2015. Making his second trip back to the WNFR, Sage won an event-record-tying four rounds of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo to secure the average title and become the second rookie bull rider to win a gold buckle, following Bill Kornell (1963). - Hubbell

It’s a rare occurrence in the sports world when someone comes into the game and has the potential to change the entire history of a discipline. For one in this position, one would almost expect the worst from the champion because they have the constant pressure of excelling in their event, while having others gunning for them. In just two short years, Sage Steele Kimzey, 21, has broken numerous records and is on the path to rewriting the history of bull riding. Ironically, for someone that is always in the spotlight, no one really knows him.

When most people speak about Kimzey, the words “standoffish,” “fierce,” and “focused,” are often thrown around. Yet that is only describing him as a person, not his ability. Some believe that the Strong City, Oklahoma native was an overnight success because during his rookie year in the PRCA he managed to clinch the CBR World Champion title, the Ram Top Gun Award and he became the PRCA World Champion Bull Rider.

In a sport that seems so demanding and complicated to most, Kimzey makes it look effortless. Everyone was created to excel in something, but Sage Kimzey has managed to create more bull riding fans with each ride and exceeds even his own expectations. Yet, as stated before, no one knows anything about him. We all know about his powers inside the arena, but so many fail to recognize him as a person when he takes off his Wrangler shirt and jeans and is simply, Sage. So, who is Sage Kimzey?

Sage Kimzey is best described as a methodical person, who comes off as proud individual that is striving for perfection, even though he knows it’s unattainable. “People always see me as a fierce competitor that wants the sport of rodeo to grow, anytime there is a problem or some area is lacking, I definitely speak my mind and a lot of times it comes off as uncensored and pretty harsh,” says Kimzey when talking about reactions from his competitors. The nature of his competitiveness is nothing new; in high school as a senior point guard for the Cheyenne Bears he led his team to win the State Championship in basketball. Shortly thereafter, Kimzey was involved in a car accident that resulted in a broken hand. Fast-forward to college, where Kimzey finished fourth in the nation as a freshman representing Southwestern Oklahoma State University. So he had success in high school and in college, but could he hold up in the pro ranks?

In 2014 the legacy of Sage Kimzey begins with wins at San Antonio, Tulsa, Rapid City, Spokane and many more. Then it comes time for the National Finals Rodeo and everyone was curious to see the 20-year-old wonder boy compete in the Thomas and Mack in front of thousands of people. He was put in the position that every real champion wants to be in, would he rise to the occasion or choke? Well $175, 466 in 10 rounds, tied him with the most rounds ever won at the NFR with four, to secure the average title and make him the second rookie in history to win a gold buckle.With such a prosperous first season coming to a wrap, everyone assumed that Kimzey was on top of the world. However, the newly crowned World Champion didn’t appear to be a kid that had just reserved his spot in history.“I felt like I had left a few things on the table, I wanted to ride all ten rounds of the NFR and after I bucked off the first round, I definitely felt defeated. I was happy to accomplish a life long dream, but it didn’t sit right, especially after I bucked off in the tenth round,” says Kimzey. When asked about his hard outer shell he portrays to the world, he said he is a competitor from the time he enters the arena, until he leaves. Anyone that wants to achieve greatness understands this quality. To some though, they don’t know why he is not like the other guys. For those that do not know him, have you ever considered the fact that the qualities that make him great are in fact what set him apart? For instance, he has been in several high pressure situations whether it’s facing JB Mauney in Calgary for the title or coming in the number one man in the standings as a rookie…Most of those situations are not ideal, yet he never looks nervous.

Emotions, the downfall of many athletes or individuals; once you allow yourself to feel the emotions that are normal of high-pressure situations, you lose focus. Sage Kimzey has trained himself to shut out the emotions and treat bull riding like an art. For eight seconds, he is in a parallel universe where the world is not apparent and he is focused on conquering a beast that always comes in fighting condition. To be the best bull rider in the world, you have to negate any feelings of uncertainty and take care of the task at hand. “I expected to be at the place I’m in, just not this fast,” said Kimzey jokingly.

Last year after he won the world title, they asked him, “What’s next?” and Kimzey responded, “You can only go up from here.” The success and fame from the gold that graced his belt did not faze him; instead it made him eager for the new season.

With the 2015 season, Sage Kimzey managed to exceed even his first season with wins at Rodeo Houston, the Calgary Stampede, the Ellensburg Rodeo, the Pendleton Round-Up, the Xtreme Bulls Tour Finale, the Wrangler Champions Challenge Finale, Spanish Fork Fiesta Days Rodeo, Lawton and several more. Out of the major rodeos, the only ones that he was not able to win was the Salinas Rodeo and Cheyenne Frontier Days. As one can see, he has a lot to brag about when it comes to this season, coming into the National Finals Rodeo in the number one spot and with a title to defend, Sage Kimzey remains calm and focused. Every time someone is at the top of his or her game, people are going to talk and whether its good or bad…History remembers the rides, not the rumors. If Kimzey continues on the same path, every industry professional will agree that he is destined for the greatest of things.

If you are a fan of rodeo and of bull riding, its a great time for you to get to witness this man on a path to break every record since bull riding began, at this point he is being compared to the greatest of all time. As they say, “the finest steel has to go through the hottest fire.”

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