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Robert Thornton hailed the support of his family as he reflected on how his sensational charge to glory in the Speedy Services UK Open signalled the end of his long battle with serious illness.

The 44-year-old former World Master broke his hand before being diagnosed with pnuemonia in a disastrous 2011, but turned his nightmare into a dream when he beat the great Phil Taylor in the final at Bolton’s Reebok Stadium last month, to complete one of the biggest shocks in the history of darts.

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

“After all I’ve been through in the last 18 months, winning that was a piece of cake,” joked the Scotsman, who swept past a string of big-name opponents to clinch his first PDC major title, despite entering the tournament as a 250-1 long shot.

“My hand actually got broken by my granddaughter, who had a bit of a tendency to slam doors and she slammed one when my hand was in the way. Not deliberately of course, but that set me back.”

“It affected me big time really. It didn’t take too long to heal, but once it did I still struggled with it.

“It was probably more of a psychological problem than anything. It took me a long time to be able to practice often enough again and then it took me even longer to overcome the problem in my head.

“The pneumonia came from nowhere. I flew out to Canada when I was a little bit unwell, but not to the extent that it prevented me from doing anything. I thought I just had one of those bugs that you can shake off in a day or two.

“But I must have caught another cold while I was out there, and that is what the doctors thought must have caused the pneumonia.

“That just put me completely out of action. I had a lot of support during all the time I was sick though. My family kept me going. Darts was the last thing on my mind.

“It was a case of trying to keep strong and stay positive. The doctors told me to take my time, and with the brilliant support of my family and the people around me, I got through it.

“Now when I’m playing I don’t take anything too seriously. It definitely changed my outlook on life and reminded me that a career isn’t the be all and end all.”


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