Bullrider The Movie
  I Just Couldn't Quit...
by Jonnie Jonckowski
  The flight attendant was kind enough to ask the gentleman in front of me if he would choose another seat. That way she could lay the back of his chair down allowing me to have my leg straight out and elevated with ice. With the drugs they gave me to ease the pain, I was actually pretty comfortable.

Jonnie JonckowskiI was clutching my World Bull Riding championship buckle case so hard that I really believed I could feel and trace the words with my fingers. My head tilted just enough so I could watch and see that my trophy saddle made it up the luggage ramp as well ... it did.

My eyes began to fill with tears, not from the pain, but from the tremendous pride I felt in myself for not having given up on my dream.

I didn't grow up in the country or thinking that one day I would be recognized for my bull riding prowess. I first had dreams of becoming a world class swimmer, but an ear disorder changed that for life. One day my skinny, gangly body began to fill out, and I became strong and had more confidence in my ability. I ran high school track and did well. I did so well, in fact, that it cost me a state title. My mom knocked on my bedroom door while I was getting into my uniform for the high school state finals . She came in and said, "Honey, I'm so sorry, but that was your coach on the phone. You can't compete today. You have been disqualified."

"But Mom, why?" I cried. I began to shake, and I could feel the blood draining through my body.

"Another coach picked up on your entry and turned you in to the officials. They have been fighting to keep you in there all night, but there was nothing anybody could do. Rules are rules." Unknown to my coach and myself, a high school athlete can qualify for a maximum of three field events. At divisionals I qualified for four. I was dominating the state with my heights and distances, and I felt I was a shoe-in for state titles and great scholarships. In the blink of an eye, my dream of a state title in anything was gone.

The scholarships, the schools, my career ... "I'm a senior, I won't have another chance to compete and show them what I can do!"

"I'm so sorry," Mom said once more as I buried my head in her chest.

I did go on after a couple of years and trained hard again. I received a small scholarship to a junior college in Kalispell, Montana where I was able to train with elite athletes and coaches. I was competing in the pentathlon (five track and field events) and was now ranked second in the country and third in the world. The 1976 Olympics were coming up, and I had a chance to qualify.

Nationals were held in Denton, Texas, and this time I was ready. A good score here, and I would make it to the Olympic trials. I competed well. I had peaked at just the right time, but I fell in the hurdles. I was able to finish second in the meet, and I needed to be in the top two finishing places. Tragically, though, the injury from my fall was so severe that I was replaced, and the third finisher went on to compete in the trials.

I would be lying if I didn't say that I felt lost and alone. I once had a goal. I once had a team cheering for me, a support system of six coaches, a dietitian, and my family. Now what?

My injury took awhile to heal, and I quit school to take a job working for the city as a zoning inspector. It was a good job by all means, making good pay and great benefits. The job was okay, but I still felt empty. I was body building for a while, played competitive softball, and ran in triathlons. But nothing seemed to fill the void I was feeling.