Zeke Thurston, of Big Valley, Alta., rides Business Girl during saddle bronc rodeo semi-finals action at the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, July 17, 2022.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Big Valley’s Zeke Thurston wins third world saddle bronc crown of his career

Zeke Thurston of Big Valley, Alta., won a world championship in saddle bronc for the third time in his career at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

Thurston, 28, accrued US$256,078 in prize money at the 10-round NFR to set a single-season earnings record of $399,316 in 2022.

The Canadian also won saddle bronc titles in 2016 and 2019.

“This one was probably the hardest one I have ever had,” Thurston told prorodeo.com after his victory Saturday night at the Thomas and Mack Center.

“I had to work for this one. The other 14 guys in the room are crazy talented and ride awesome.

“I had quite a bit of money to make up coming in here,” he added. “I knew if I just made the best ride I could on every horse and kept placing in the rounds I would give myself a fighting chance. And that’s what I did.”

Thurston won three straight saddle bronc titles at the Calgary Stampede between 2015 and 2017.

This year’s Calgary winner, Logan Hay of Wildwood, Alta., ranked third at the NFR with $339,400 in season winnings.