Belfast Telegraph

Superbike ace Jonathan Rea revving up for RTE sports award after snub by SPOTY

 

Jonathan Rea with wife Tatia
Jonathan Rea with wife Tatia
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

Five-time consecutive World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea has been announced as one of the nominees for the RTE Sports Awards' 2019 Sportsperson of the Year following his snub from the BBC's counterpart show.

The longlist of nominees for the RTE award includes no less than six sporting icons from Northern Ireland, including golfing superstar Rory McIlroy.

Rhys McClenaghan
Rhys McClenaghan

As well as Rea and McIlroy, the 26-strong list, which will be cut down to a final shortlist on Sunday, December 8, also sees Portaferry runner Ciara Mageean, Newtownards gymnast Rhys McClenaghan, Londonderry sprinter Jason Smyth and Lisburn boxer Kurt Walker all recognised for their sporting achievements.

Also among those nominated is Irish golfer Shane Lowry who celebrated winning the prestigious Open Championship on its return to Northern Ireland at Royal Portrush.

Kurt Walker
Kurt Walker

The BBC has come under huge criticism for not including record-breaking Rea on its 2019 shortlist for BBC Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY).

In 2017, Rea picked up over 80,000 votes when he finished runner-up to Mo Farah.

On the BBC's decision to drop Rea from the shortlist, professional motorcycle racer Ryan Farquhar said he believes the sport is not perceived to be as glamorous as others and that may have contributed to the decision.

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"I'm a road racer through and through, I love motorbike racing and what Jonathan has done in his field of the sport to be world champion five times in a row is something very, very special," he said.

"I would have thought somebody who is representing their country and is a multiple world champion would have been in with a shout for BBC Sports Personality of the Year but there are other people who will argue that motorcycling is a minority sport."

Citing multiple world clay pigeon shooting champion George Digweed MBE as an example, the Dungannon biker believes the Englishman has never been nominated for SPOTY as his sport is not as popular as other mainstream sports.

Shane Lowry
Shane Lowry

He added: "I have spoken to other riders about it and they're all under the same opinion that (Rea)should have been nominated.

"He can't do much better than winning five championships in a row."

International motorcyclist and fastest road racer in the world, Peter Hickman, also believes Ballynure's Rea should have been on the shortlist for the "obvious reason" he won five world championships on the trot.

Jason Smyth
Jason Smyth

"I think it's more of motorcycle racing in general in that it just isn't as big as we would all like it to be," stated the five-time Isle of Man TT winner.

"Having said that, it does have a strong following and he has done something that nobody else has done before. At the end of the day it's a world championship, we're not talking about a national championship, so the recognition should be extremely high for it."

Meanwhile, it has also been revealed that Northern Ireland will not have any representation on this year's SPOTY judging panel.

CIARA MAGEEAN
CIARA MAGEEAN

Farquhar said that the country should have representation as "everybody is going to have their own agenda".

In regards to Rea's omission from the SPOTY shortlist, a BBC spokesman said that many contenders were considered and debated by an expert industry panel who by consensus agreed on the shortlist.

When asked why the judging panel does not have any representation from Northern Ireland, the spokesman added: "The people on the shortlist panel bring a wide range of expert sporting knowledge.

"This year's panel were picked to provide an expert cross-section of opinions, which was reflected in the considered discussions on contenders for the shortlist."

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