Quesnel’s top bull rider may be banged up at the moment, but he still has his eyes firmly fixed on national glory.
Lane Cork walked into the Observer office on Wednesday (Sept 19) sporting a sling. A kick from a bull at a rodeo meet in Abbotsford four days earlier has fractured three bones in his elbow.
The way he was carrying himself, it might as well have been a bruised shin.
“It’s just a part of it,” Cork says of the injury. “Everybody knows you’re going to get hurt at some point. You just hope for the best and try not to get into bad situations.”
The soft-spoken young man with a quiet confidence tells of broken ankles, smashed wrists, numerous concussions and even a time when he broke two arms within the course of three days.
“I was in Alberta a couple summers ago and broke my arm one night, and then a couple days later I broke my other arm,” he says to a flabbergasted reporter, who wouldn’t show up to his desk job with a similar injury, nevermind ride a 2,000 pound bull.
“It was my free arm,” he explains, as if that was to make it any less shocking, “So the paramedics gave me a little brace to wear on it and I rode in three rodeos with it and in the third one I got in a wreck.”
It is that fearlessness, drive and determination that has propelled Cork to success in the brutal sport.
The 23-year-old has won the B.C. Rodeo Association (BCRA) Finals three years in a row. He’s the BCRA season leader this year and is sitting second in the Bull Riders Canada (BRC) season standings with two events left.
“After this year, I’ve got a few different sponsorship opportunities coming up and it might look like I can actually make a run at the Canadian Finals next year,” he says.
“It’s the goal and dream of any bull rider in Canada.”
The dream, which will hopefully be realized in Red Deer, Alberta next year, has been eight years in the making for Cork.
He began as a 15-year-old riding bulls and steers after being brought up in a rodeo household in Quesnel.
Summers were spent with his buddy Matt O’Flynn, who he still travels with, learning the ropes from larger-than-life figures like the late Ty Pozzobon.
“Everything I know about bull riding came from [Pozzobon],” he says.
“Because of that we have very similar styles. Even his parents have said to me, ‘Oh, you ride a lot like Ty,’ which makes me feel pretty good about myself.”
Pozzobon in turn learned from Gary Leffew, a U.S. bull riding guru who Cork says “mastered the foundations and fundamentals of bull riding and was able to break it down better than anybody.”
Needless to say, it’s an impressive lineage.
With such an intense sport to focus on, Cork is grateful for all the support he receives from loved ones. He credits his girlfriend for always being there for him, O’Flynn for being a terrific travel partner and his parents for still trying to catch as many of his events as they can.
“It’s pretty cool when my dad’s pulling the ropes on my chutes when he’s able to,” he says.
Always with an eye on the future, Cork hopes to hear soon from an orthopaedic surgeon on whether he will require surgery for his current injury.
In the meantime, he says he will lift weights, exercise and watch a lot of tapes.
“I watch a lot of my own videos to see what I’m doing wrong and what’s right, and I watch a lot of videos of Ty because we have that similar style.”
He will be keeping busy regardless.
“If I’m not rodeoing, I’m either doing drills or helping other kids out as much as I can, or hunting or working. I don’t have much downtime.”
Which begs the question, how long can this last?
“It all depends,” he says. “There are some guys riding the PBR [Professional Bull Riders] who are 35, and they’re at the top.”
Despite the injuries Cork as racked up, he says he’s still got lots of bull riding to do.
“I’ve fared a lot better than a lot of other guys have,” he remarks. “At least I haven’t broken my legs or anything like that.”