Belfast Telegraph

'No hard feelings' over BBC and RTE awards snubs, says Jonathan Rea

From left: Jonathan Rea with Lady Mary Peters, James Nesbitt and Power NI’s Gemma Louise Bond at the Sport Inspires Lunch in the Europa
From left: Jonathan Rea with Lady Mary Peters, James Nesbitt and Power NI’s Gemma Louise Bond at the Sport Inspires Lunch in the Europa

By Jim Gracey

Northern Ireland's five-in-a-row World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea says he has no hard feelings over his surprise omission from the BBC and RTE sports personality of the year awards this weekend.

Rea's absence from the nominations for the two television awards was greeted with shock and anger by his massive fan base here and around the world, who felt his achievements deserved recognition.

But Templepatrick-based Rea was unconcerned when he spoke for the first time on Friday about the controversy.

Rea (31) said: "Everyone who has been nominated for the two awards is deserving and it would have been nice to have been included alongside such distinguished names.

"But I haven't been and I am not dwelling on it. I have no hard feelings whatsoever.

"To be honest, I wouldn't have been able to attend either ceremony. My brother Richard is getting married this weekend and we will be there for his big day."

Rea was speaking at the annual Sport Inspires Lunch at Belfast's Europa Hotel in aid of the Mary Peters Trust where he was presented with the charity's International Recognition award by Lady Mary, the 1972 Munich Olympics pentathlon gold medal winner.

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Handing over the honour, Lady Mary said: "We are all really cross here that Jonathan has not been included in the BBC Sports Personality nominations.

"When I won it in 1972, after my gold medal win, people had to write in to the Radio Times to cast their vote.

"Now it is all instant and phone vote and internet-based. The rules and the criteria seem to have changed but Jonathan is still a star to us."

Rea's exclusion from the BBC award nominations is all the more surprising after he was declared runner-up two years ago after winning his third world title. Now he has an unprecedented five in a row.

But he shrugged: "I didn't expect anything then, either. When I heard I had been nominated, I thought it would be nice to go along and have a nice meal and night on the BBC.

"I was dumbfounded to be declared runner-up to Mo Farah. The thought of all those people phoning in to vote for me was just incredible. But I think the selection procedure has been changed since then... motorcycle racing hasn't been embraced."

Rea was chief guest at an event that raised £15,000 for the work of the Mary Peters Trust in supporting the development of young athletes here by funding their training and travel costs.

Broughshane-born national TV star James Nesbitt acted as MC for an audience that included sports stars past and present, and business and media figures.

Among them were Tokyo Olympics-bound Newtownards gymnast Rhys McClenaghan and Ireland hockey players Shirley McCay, Katie Mullan and Zoe Wilson and, from the world of broadcasting, UTV's Pamela Ballentine, Ruth Gorman and Pete Snodden of Cool FM.

Rea told them: "The real fun in sport is in succeeding. Getting there is tough, there is a lot of hard work and sacrifice involved. But when you do get to the top, it is all worthwhile. What I've done over the last five years is what I dreamed of as a kid. That is what really counts and I am delighted to help Lady Mary raise money for amazing causes.

"Sport has given me an incredible life. If I wasn't a racer I don't know what would have become of me as I didn't pay much attention at school. All I wanted to do was ride bikes."

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