Zeke Thurston from Big Valley, AB, was the big winner for the Saddle-Bronc Championships at the Calgary Stampede rodeo in Calgary on Sunday July 12, 2015. DARREN MAKOWICHUK / POSTMEDIA
He’s won the Calgary Stampede, RodeoHouston and a now a world championship.
That’s a career’s worth of hardware.
And Zeke Thurston is just 22 years old.
But the saddle bronc whiz kid said there’s still plenty of motivation to keep him spurring for the next decade-plus.
“It’s been a crazy two years,” Thurston said. “I’d like to win a Canadian title. And I’d like to do all those things over again.
“And win a Canadian all-around title, and who knows, maybe one day a world all-around title.
“There’s always things for me striving for and working towards.”
Thurston pocketed $160,404 during the 10-day National Finals Rodeo and he needed nearly every penny.
Heading into the final round, the Big Valley cowboy needed a list of things to fall into place in order for him to surpass leader Jacobs Crawley from Texas.
“There were quite a few things that needed to go my way,” Thurston said. “I needed Jacobs to get a no score, I needed to beat Jake Watson in the average and I needed to place in the round.
“It goes to show anything can happen, I guess.”
When the dust settled, Thurston topped the charts with $265,449.
Crawley settled for second with $262,618.
It was the perfect ending to a great week for the Alberta cowboy, who had a large cheering section in his corner.
“It started off a little slow and then things picked up,” Thurston said. “It stayed steady and pretty consistent.
“My mom, my dad, my wife, my brothers, my sister, my in-laws, my grandma came down. There were lots of friends and family that came down to watch.
“It can be a long week but we sure had a lot of fun.”
Thurston won’t be putting his new buckle in a trophy case. He’s going to wear it.
“It’s what I’ve dreamed about since I was five years old,” Thurston said. “There’s nothing like it.
Thurston wasn’t the only Canadian saddle bronc rider strutting his stuff in Sin City.
Jake Watson finished second in the average behind Thurston. The Hudson’s Hope, B.C., cowboy climbed all the way from 15th to fifth.
Canadian champion Clay Elliott of Nanton also capped off an impressive season, ending up in 11th spot on the world charts with just shy of $140,000.
Eight Canadians combined to take more than US$1 million out of Las Vegas.
Airdrie bareback rider Jake Vold capped off his best professional season with $240,161 in the bank.
“Everyone did phenomenal,” said Vold, who finished second in the bareback standings. “It was a hell of a week for us.
“It put us back on the map and opened some eyes up for some young talent up here.
“Hopefully this will get some more Canadians down there down the road.”
Tim O’Connell (Zwingle, Iowa) topped the bareback standings with a whopping $374,271.
“Coming into the Finals, I was about $100,000 behind him so I knew I had to make up some serious ground.
“But he kept pecking away, too. I think he placed in seven or eight rounds and won the average.
“He had an amazing Finals, so he’s pretty tough to beat when a guy does that. But I’m happy with the end result.”
Both Alberta cowboys said they made some time to have a bit of fun in Vegas, a feat that probably wasn’t too hard.
“You still have to enjoy yourself,” Vold said. “You’re down there for a couple of weeks.
“You’ve gotta take care of business but you have to have some fun, too.”
Ponoka’s Levi Simpson ($249,133) and Arrowwood’s Jeremy Buhler ($258,311) won Canada’s first ever team roping crown.
Orin Larsen (Inglis, Man.) finished third in the bareback with $219,372.
Barrhead’s Kolton Schmidt finished off his stellar team roping campaign with $132,378 in the header standings.