Corey excited about his shot at the gold

Most of us end up leaving our money in Las Vegas when we visit the Nevada city.

Not bareback rider Clint Corey.

“I was gambling every night, but I didn’t do it at the tables,” said Corey, who pocketed $84,186 while winning the 10-day National Finals Rodeo, which concluded on Sunday, Dec. 16.

Kitsap’s hometown cowboy kept rolling out high numbers, one after the other, and before he knew it, the 40-year-old had won his first NFR average title while moving from 12th to third in the overall world standings.

And now he’s got a chance to win a gold medal, to go with all those gold belt buckles he’s won over the years.

Corey, competing in his 17th straight NFR, picked the right year to win it because it has qualified him for the Olympiad Rodeo at the 2002 Olympic Games, Feb. 9-11 in Salt Lake City Utah.

It’s an exhibition sport, but Corey and the other cowboys will get to march in the Opening Ceremonies and take part in the usual Olympic activities.

“Isn’t that going to be exciting,” said Corey, a Central Kitsap High graduate. “Dianna and I were talking about going to the Olympics before we made it. It’s about as close as it’s going to get. Now we have to go and we’re really looking forward to it.”

Corey’s accomplished just about all you can in his sport, winning every major rodeo there is while pushing his career earnings to $1,787,298.

Corey and his wife Dianna have three children — Bailey, 11; Blaine, 8; and Zane Allen, just 2 1/2-months old. They live on a ranch in Powell Butte, Ore., where they’re raising horses and cattle.

Corey’s spending more and more time at home with his family.

“I went to 53 rodeos this year,” he said, “just enough to qualify for the finals and have a shot at that big money (in Vegas). That was my whole plan. To win it and qualify for the Winter Olympics, that’s just a little icing on the cake.”

Corey called it the “funnest week” he’s had at the national finals.

“Going into the 10th round, I was winning second in the average,” he said. “I was thinking that would be great to hold onto second and go home with over $60,000.”

Corey scored 82 points on his final round, enough to stay ahead of world champion Lan LaJeunesse of Morgan, Utah. He didn’t think he had a shot at the overall title because his traveling companion, Bobby Mote of Redmond, Ore., was only a 71-point ride away from clinching it.

Mote was bucked off and Corey, the oldest of the 15 bareback competitors, found himself taking a victory ride around the arena shortly after.

“Winning the average is the next best thing to winning the world,” said Corey, who won a world title in 1991. “It’s one of the greatest honors a guy can have. Doing it at my age makes it even more special.”

Corey didn’t win a round, but placed in eight of the 10 while pushing his overall earnings for the year to $144,863.

He relied on the same steady style that’s been so effective over the years, one that’s allowed him to finish second in the world four times and in the top six 15 of the last 17 years.

“I’ve had a great career,” Corey said. “I’ve got no complaints. It’s been outstanding. To be healthy this long in my event, gosh dang.”

Bareback riding is such a physically demanding event, especially over 10 straight days like at the national finals where the wear and tear takes its toll.

“I see a lot of younger guys, good bareback guys, take a lot more abuse,” Corey said. “It’s a different style than what I learned with. I’ve got a more conservative-type style. A lot of the guys make it look a little wilder and more exciting, but as far as the damage on their body, it’s unreal. All those back injuries and head injuries, I’ve never experienced that.”

Corey’s body doesn’t ache, but he’s preparing himself for retirement.

“Within the next couple of years, I’ll probably give it up,” he said. “Dianna and I want to break in more horses. We need to get more stalls and pens in and get our arena done.

“It’s time to decrease rodeos and start training barrel horses and roping horses. That’s what I want to do. Physically, I feel great, but I want to be home more.”

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