Jonathan Rea honoured at Stormont reception
World Superbike Champion Jonathan Rea has been honoured at Stormont on Monday.
The rider claimed back-to-back titles in 2016 becoming the first man to do so in nearly 20 years.
Jonathan said he was grateful that his achievements were acknowledged to the highest level in Northern Ireland.
He said: "Growing up in Northern Ireland and racing schoolboy motocross here, truly gave me a springboard to go on to achieve my dream of being World Champion.
"Coming back home after winning back-to-back World SBK Championships makes me very proud to represent Northern Ireland at the highest level. Motorcycling has always had rich history in this country and it is an honour for me to fly-the-flag knowing that I have so much support here.
"Looking back from when I first starting riding motorcycles, I would like to thank all those who supported me from the beginning, from volunteers at local MX tracks to the media who have followed my journey and the fans who’ve supported me all the way.
"The biggest thanks has to go to my family, who have sacrificed everything to get me here today and to my wife and kids, thanks for going all-in to the dream with me."
Sports Minister Paul Givan said it was a pleasure for to celebrate Jonathan’s success in winning back to back World Superbike titles.
The minister said: "Jonathan is the first rider since Carl Fogarty in 1999 to win successive World Superbike titles.
"In order to win a world championship, a rider needs fantastic skills levels but also drive, determination, commitment and a strong nerve! Jonathan has certainly demonstrated this on numerous occasions and for him to win back to back championships is an incredible achievement.
"I would also like to pay tribute to Jonathan’s family and his team who provide him with the support he needs to go out racing every day.
"Jonathan, like so many other great sports men and women from Northern Ireland is a great role model for so many. Motorsport has a rich history in the province and attracts a significant following of enthusiastic supporters. We have also produced some of the finest racers in the world.
"I am a keen supporter of motorsports and want to see the various disciplines of the sport continue to thrive and grow in the future. As a first step I have allocated funding for safety works and equipment which will benefit the sport.
"I wish Jonathan a continued, safe and highly successful career and here’s to the treble in 2017."
Mr Givan added: "2016 has been well documented as a truly exceptional year for local sport on the world stage. Jonathan’s achievement has now been added to this year of amazing sporting success which included our double world champion boxer Carl Frampton, our Paralympic winners, especially Bethany Firth who claimed a record medal haul for Team GB, and the Northern Ireland football team who did so well in the European Championships. It is right and proper that such success is acknowledged at receptions and ceremonies like this."