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Rodeo riders compete for Gold

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah ? Saddle bronc riding may seem a far stretch for the Winter Olympics, but the Olympic Command Performance Rodeo will be the event where fans and newcomers can watch 35 of America's top rodeo talents, two of whom just happen to be American Indian.

Tom Reeves, current world Saddle Bronc Champion, and Bud Longbrake, a National Finals Rodeo contestant over numerous years, will not only represent America, they will represent the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of South Dakota.

The U. S. and Canada will field 35 athletes each in a three-day rodeo at the Salt Lake City Olympics. The last time rodeo was introduced to Olympic fans was in Calgary in 1988.

Reeves and Longbrake are household names among South Dakota and national rodeo fans. For youth on the Cheyenne River Reservation these two athletes are not only heroes, they are role models. Reeves and Longbrake conduct rodeo clinics on the reservation during the annual tribal fair in summer.

"I see Tom and Bud representing not only the United States but the Great Sioux Nation as well," said Tribal Chairman Gregg Bourland. "We wish them well as they chase the gold medal!"

Reeves and Longbrake will join fellow South Dakotan Billy Etbauer from Ree Heights on the Saddle Bronc team. Former All Around Cowboy Dan Mortensen, Billings, Mont. will also be on the team.

To be chosen for the Olympic team the cowboy had to win or be the highest ranking competitor at the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo; Winter Finale of the Wrangler Pro Rodeo Tour; Summer Finale of the Wrangler Pro Rodeo; National Finals Rodeo; or the 2001 World Champions.

Reeves qualified with a championship win at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, where he has competed for the past 16 years.

In 1988 in Calgary, the Winter Games Rodeo played to sold out crowds, its first appearance in an Olympic venue.

The cowboys will compete for $120,000 in prize money and a chance to win a Gold, Silver or Bronze Olympic medal.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for the sport of rodeo2range from $35 to $75. Log on to www.saltlake2002.com for ticket reservations.