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Female bull rider

It's an 8-second challenge that separates the men from the boys, but at the Longhorn Rodeo in Tulsa this weekend, someone new is stepping into the arena.

Actually, as News on 6 reporter Heather Lewin explains, ‘she'll’ be flying out the chute on the back of a bull.

At 5-foot-1 and 98 lbs, the last place in the world you might expect to see Melissa Phillips is on the back of a bull. However, if you ask her it's the most natural place in the world. "I always rodeoed. I was probably born in the saddle and been riding barrels since I was six."

But she wanted something more. “I've been fascinated with bulls for as long as I can remember and I always studied 'em." Even as a young girl, she just knew one day, she would have to ride. "And I heard all the do's and the don'ts and what can or shouldn't happen. I'm telling you I nagged at them for over a year. Nobody wanted me to get on cause they didn't want me to get hurt."

But she did it anyway, for love of the sport. And she did get hurt alot. In fact, Melissa says she's lost count of how many bones she's broken. "I think the last count was 24 or 25, I'm not sure exactly but I think it's somewhere in the 20's zone."

But none of the injuries broke her competitive spirit. And in 1993 she became the pro women's world champion. "Winning the world riding bulls, no I didn't think really think about that until it happened."

While some of the new guys question her presence, Melissa says most in the circuit know and support her. "Some of my heroes still around say, 'boys, you better watch, you might learn something."

Though she no longer competes, she's had a great ride, opening the door, or rather the chute for other women. "Some of them look at it like a challenge of the sexes, but that's not how I'm looking at it. I'm looking at it like it's an opportunity to show youth or anybody, that they can do what they wanna do."
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