Japanese student laps up the action

Don't let the Japanese fan fool you. Kyohei Takehisa is becoming a real fan of rodeo.

The 17-year-old got a few sideways glances from the crowd of about 2000 at the Outram Rodeo yesterday as he sat in the blistering heat, keeping cool with his fan.

But the attention went unnoticed - he was too busy lapping up the action in the ring.

After all, it was his first rodeo.

''To see one in live [sic] is very exciting for me. You don't see this in Japan.''

Before he came to New Zealand last year to study engineering and English at Otago Polytechnic, he had only seen rodeos while channel-surfing on Japanese television.

But at the Taieri A&P Show last month, he came across a tent offering rides on a mechanical bull. He gave it a go, came off, banged his knee, and his passion for rodeo was born.

''I am really getting into the cowboy thing,'' he said.

Eventually, he hoped to buy a cowboy hat and cowboy boots, but that might not happen before he goes to his next rodeo.

''I am a student - I can't afford the hat or the boots at the moment,'' he said.

Mr Takehisa was not the only international visitor in the crowd, which also included spectators from the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Turkey, England and France.

But the stars were the competitors, from New Zealand, Australia and the United States, competing in the barrel races, saddle broncs, bull riding, bareback riding, rope and tie, and steer wrestling.

While Mr Takehisa's passion for rodeo riding grew stronger every time the chute gates opened, it was still very much in its infancy.

Asked if he fancied taking a ride on one of the bulls, he replied: ''What? Are you crazy?''

Maybe next year.


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