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Award is recognition of Northern Ireland’s world standing, insists Jonathan Rea

Record-breaking Superbike champion receives OBE in New Year Honours List


Jonathan Rea

Jonathan Rea

Swimmer Bethany Firth has received an OBE. Credit: Phil Smyth

Swimmer Bethany Firth has received an OBE. Credit: Phil Smyth


Jonathan Rea

Record-breaking six-time World Superbike champions Jonathan Rea and Paralympic multiple gold medallists Bethany Firth and Jason Smyth head the glittering list of Northern Ireland sportspeople who achievements have been recognised in the New Year’s honours list.

Templepatrick-based Rea now has an OBE (Order of the British Empire) to take pride of place in his overflowing trophy collection alongside a previously awarded MBE.

It will also be some consolation after narrowly missing out on a seventh successive world title in the WSB season recently ended. Aftr storming to a record six titles in a row, the Kawasaki rider pushed eventual winner, Toprak Razgatlioglu of Turkey, all the way until the last race as he finished second in the Championship.

Rea said: “I am extremely grateful and deeply honoured to receive an OBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours list. While it has come as a welcomed surprise, I am so pleased that my sport has been recognised and I am very proud to represent Northern Ireland and the UK in motorsport around the world.

“It is an amazing moment for me and my family who are always there to support me and that is reflected in the whole Kawasaki Racing Team, as well as the support from my friends and fans around the globe.

“On an international level it demonstrates that Northern Ireland is indeed the home of motorcycling. From road racing right through to World Superbike and Moto GP we really do punch above our weight, so it is a real privilege to be given an honour like this, in recognition of my racing achievements”.

Swimmer Bethany is also awarded an OBE. Bethany won two gold and two silver medals in the Tokyo Paralympics last summer.

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Her success was all the more remarkable given injury issues and training restrictions in the build up to the Games, due to the Covid pandemic which included her having to train in a 10ft paddling pool at her family home in Seaforde, County Down.

Her OBE will be added to the MBE she received in 2017.

Mum Lindsey said: “We found out about it in November. We were a bit late because we had moved addresses and it took them a while to track us down.

“But Bethany was absolutely thrilled, it is a great honour.

“She only ever swims for everyone else. She just wants all the praise to go back to the family, the church, her coach and all the support she receives.”

Bethany is currently recovering after breaking her foot in the gym, but her mother said her hard work continued despite the injury.

Co Derry athlete Jason Smyth becomes an MBE (Member of the British Empire) after the sprinter claimed yet another Paralympic gold, the sixth of his career, as he continued his incredible unbeaten record in the 100 metres in Tokyo.

Amateur sportspeople and backroom volunteers have also been recognised for their years of service and efforts in their various fields.

Junior football stalwart Fred Magee’s 50 year association with the Harland and Wolff Welders club earns him an MBE.

Fred, who turned 82 in May, stepped away from his role as the club’s secretary in 2020.

The popular and hugely respected east Belfast man has performed several other roles from Chairman of the Steel and Sons Cup Committee to sitting on the County Antrim FA Council and Irish FA Council.

The life member of the Irish FA was particularly proud when his Welders side lifted the Steel and Sons Cup in 2010 and 2015.

Another deserved MBE award goes to Paul Johnston, head coach and Project Manager at the suc-cessful Monkstown Amateur Boxing Club in County Antrim.

Paul (51) from Newtownabbey, has volunteered as a coach with the club for 36 years.

Seven years ago he took up the post of project manager which saw him intro-duce BoxClever, a new programme to build confidence and improve the quality of life for hundreds of kids in his community.

The aim of the scheme was to tackle the high levels of underachievement among school kids in the area.

Paul introduced homework and breakfast clubs, sport-related work placements and coaching sessions for more than 100 young people from Monkstown, Rathcoole and surrounding areas each week.

Since it was introduced in 2012 over 1,000 young people have benefited from the scheme.

Peter Richard Briggs also become an MBE for services to Judo while George Ivor McCandless is awarded a British Empire medal for his services to golf.

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