THORNTON’S Rob Bullen is celebrating after being crowned British slalom skiing champion ... with a broken thumb.
The 22-year-old smacked his hand against a gate on a practice run two days before the big race.
He went to hospital, where medics confirmed a fracture and put a plastic support around his thumb, shaped so he could still hold his ski pole.
Despite being in immense pain, Rob blitzed the field at the British Alpine Ski Championships, held in Meribel, France, 48 hours later, claiming the biggest victory of his career to date.
Rob said: “The broken thumb forced me to ski a tactical race. It proved to be the right approach as the poor visibility and difficult conditions caused some of the other seeded skiers to crash out.
I am honoured to have won the slalom and have my name alongside some of Britain’s greatest alpine skiers, such as Alain Baxter and Dave Ryding.”
Rob, who went to Millfield School, has been skiing since the age of three, though he didn’t start taking a serious interest in the sport until he was a teenager.
“We have had a place in the French Alps for the last 30 years, so Rob has been on skis since he was in nappies really,” said proud dad Barry.
“It hasn’t been easy since he took the sport up professionally because British skiing is not in a good state, desperately under-resourced and so it is very tough to get funding.
Barry added: “Rob has a couple of sponsors but because he trains ten months of the year he still has a lot to pay for. It is difficult, especially when he is up against skiers from countries like Russia and New Zealand, where the support and funding is huge.
“That is a shame because he is doing so well and he is only 22, which is young for a skier. The best slalom skier in the world is 32, so Rob has time on his side.”
Rob’s ambitions include competing at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.