A FORMER international judo champion from York has won recognition for his sporting exploits after fighting two even tougher contests – against cancer.

Rob Thomas, who won national and World Master tournaments in his time, was presented with an honorary sixth-Dan black belt during the North Yorkshire Festival of Judo at York Railway Institute.

It was an emotional moment for Rob, who has undergone gruelling treatment over the past 11 years, first for advanced Hodgkins lymphoma in 2010 and then cancer of the stomach and liver in 2018.

Rob, 57, of Strensall, said his chemo treatments were ‘very tough’ but successful and he was in remission.

Rob graced judo at world, European, British, England and North Yorkshire levels for 25 years, after starting out at Rowntree Judo Club and later moving to Ryedale Judo Club in Pickering.

In 1990, after being named the number one ranked United Kingdom fighter in the heavyweight division, he was chosen for the GB squad.

He became the British champion and then appeared in no fewer than four Masters world championships.

The event in 2003 was held in Japan, the spiritual home of judo.”It was another level,” he told The Press previously.

“It’s the equivalent of a footballer playing at Wembley, a cricketer at Lord’s, a rugby union player at Twickenham. It was the tops.”

In 2005, he was crowned the World Masters judo champion in the ultimate division of the open weight category.

He said yesterday that the presentation last weekend, watched by one of his children and three of his grandchildren, had been an ‘emotional’ occasion. “It brought tears to my eyes,” he said.

“I’d like to thank my wife Diane for all she has done for me throughout my illness, my sponsors over the years, Azlan Stonehouse Butchers,FR Pulleyn, the Yorkshire Evening Press and Ziggys nightclub, to all my training partners and my former coach Mike Leng, who always pointed me in the right direction over the years.”

He also thanked the staff at York Hospital who treated him. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them,” he said. “They did an amazing job.”