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On mechanical bulls and real ones, it’s all in the hips

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Sarah Ehlers competes Thursday in the mechanical bull riding contest Man vs. Machine at Stoney’s Rockin’ Country, 9151 Las Vegas Blvd.
Photo: Richard Brian
Ashley Livingston

Despite the contest's testosterone-laden title, it was two women who took top rankings Thursday during Stoney's Rockin' Country's Man vs. Machine event.

Bull riding icon Tuff Hedeman, who served as one of judges for the finals of the mechanical bull riding event at the country music bar in Silverado on Las Vegas Boulevard, said the ladies had an advantage.

"In a subjective contest, looks always matter," he said with a laugh.

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Sarah Ehlers poses for a photo Thursday after winning first place in the mechanical bull riding contest Man vs. Machine at Stoney's Rockin' Country, 9151 Las Vegas Blvd.

But Sarah Ehlers, who came in first among the six others who had qualified, wasn't just another pretty face.

She said she has been riding the real thing for years and holds the title of 2004 Extreme Bull Riding Queen.

While the Wolbach, Neb., resident said the mechanical bull is fun, she said she loves the adrenaline that comes with riding a bull that's not mounted to the floor and surrounded by soft padding.

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2009 Championship Bull Riding
Jan. 23, 7 p.m. $25-$75
South Point Casino Hotel and Spa
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"It's the edge of being on 1,000 pounds of meat for eight seconds," Ehlers said.

In second place was Mercedes Cuppet, who rode despite having separated her shoulder during one of the three qualifying rounds that were held on Thursdays throughout January.

It wasn't easy riding with the pain, she said, but she said she did it for the fun of it and the tickets.

The top-ranking rider was presented with a belt buckle, $500 and two VIP tickets to the Championship Bull Riding events scheduled for today and Saturday at the South Point Hotel and Casino.

Those who won during the qualifiers Jan. 8, 15 and 22 were given two tickets to the Championship Bull Riding events.

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Silverado resident Charles Brumit competes Thursday in the mechanical bull riding contest Man vs. Machine at Stoney's Rockin' Country, 9151 Las Vegas Blvd.

Finalist and Silverado resident Charles Brumit said he was happy about winning the rodeo tickets, but he really had his eye on the belt buckle.

"If you're a cowboy and you win a buckle ... that's the ultimate trophy," he said.

Brumit said he never got into professional bull riding because he started the sport at too late of an age, but that he loves riding as a hobby.

"It's the talent involved," he said. "Every ride is a little different, it's hard to do and it's something a lot of people won't even try," he said.

Bull operator Travis Hinkle said about 10 to 12 people participated in each qualifying round in which he made the bull go a lot faster than usual and threw in extra turns to try to knock people off.

Professional bull rider Ralph Curry, who judged during the qualifying rounds, said he was looking for control from the participants.

"As long as they stay in control and aren't flopping around all over the place and are keeping their balance on the machine," they're doing it right, he said.

Curry agreed that the women had an advantage, but he said it was because they're better at moving their hips, which he said helps with coordination and balance.

"I would have won a lot more money if I had women's hips," he said.

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