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Photo by Graham McKerrell//Calgary Stampede

Calgary Stampede Rodeo 2024: A new era of competition and talent

By Maggie Hsu, July 4 2024—

The Calgary Stampede Rodeo is gearing up for another thrilling year of competition, promising excitement and showcasing top-tier talent from around the globe. In an interview with the Gauntlet, Navada Phipps, Western Events Specialist for the Calgary Stampede, explored the changes in the competition format, highlighting some athletes to watch and potential record-breaking performances for this year’s event.

Photo by Blake Chorley//Calgary Stampede

Last year, the Stampede introduced an expanded format that received significant attention as they moved away from the traditional two-pool format which allowed contestants four trials with Wildcard Saturday offering another chance for those who hadn’t secured a spot. The new format introduced last year moved into a three-consecutive-day structure per pool with three pools running with 10 contestants each and four from each pool advancing to Championship Sunday on July 14.

Under the new system, we will see 30 competitors compared to past years’ renditions of the Stampede where only 20 competitors competed. This expanded format enhances competition, providing more opportunities for contestants to compete for the grand prize but additionally accommodates the busy rodeo schedule across North America so those that do not qualify during their pool can move on and compete at other concurrent events, maximizing their chances to showcase their skills.

The Calgary Stampede is an internationally renowned stage that attracts elite athletes from around the world, including notable talents from Canada and locally grown athletes to keep an eye on:

In bareback riding, Clint Laye from Cadogan, Alberta is expected to be a contender in Pool A. He is the reigning Canadian Champion.

In saddle bronc riding, Zeke Thurston from Big Valley, Alberta is set to add to his trophy case as the reigning Canadian and World Champion as well as the three-time Calgary Stampede Rodeo Champion.

In bull riding, Jared Parsonage of Maple Creek, Saskatchewan returns as the 2023 Stampede Champion. Parsonage will look to retain his title but will be heavily contended by Jake Gardner of Fort St. John, BC who holds the top spot of the 2024 Canadian standings.

In steer wrestling, Stephen Culling from Fort St. John, BC enters the competition coming off a career year where he finished ninth in the World Standings. However, Scott Guenthner from Provost, Alberta will be looking to keep his crown as reigning Canadian and Calgary Stampede Champion after redirecting his career to focus more on family but maintaining competition in Canada.

In tie-down roping, Beau Cooper from Stettler, Alberta will look to repeat as Stampede Champion despite his young age, Cooper will step into competition to make a name for himself.

Photo of Beau Cooper by Blake Chorley//Calgary Stampede

In barrel racing, Bailey Smith from Marwayne, Alberta enters the competition as a relatively new face to the rodeo circuit after her stand-out performance in the qualifiers held in early June. These qualifier events offer girls from all over North America the opportunity to enter for a chance to compete on the World Stage in the Calgary Stampede. Smith will also compete at the Rocky Mountain Cup in Breakaway Roping on July 9th in the Nutrien Western Event Centre. Another prominent name to look out for is rookie Blake Molle from Chauvin, Alberta. Molle’s need for speed seems genetic as she’s the daughter of 2022 Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby Chuckwagon Champion Kris Molle.

In addition to these Canadian stars, the rodeo will feature competitors from Australia, Mexico and the United States, among other countries, marking the Stampede as an international event that promises to showcase the pinnacle of competitive spirit. Record-breaking performances are expected in every event but barrel racing is a perennial favourite to produce new arena and competition records. Thanks to the increase in power from the horses themselves as well as refined techniques and training from the riders, riders like Bailey Smith and Blake Molle will be vying to set new benchmarks to make their mark in the record books.

Photo by Blake Chorley//Calgary Stampede

Overall, the 2024 Calgary Stampede Rodeo promises to be a landmark event so even if you’re not a rodeo expert, you will not want to miss out on the action. Live broadcasts run throughout the Stampede starting at 1:30 PM (MST) on Sportsnet and Sportsnet+. If you want to experience the energy and excitement in person, tickets can be purchased through the Calgary Stampede.

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