Belfast Telegraph

BBC Sports nomination caps sublime year for Rea

 

By Roy Harris

What a momentous week it has been for Jonathan Rea.

Last Tuesday he visited Buckingham Palace to collect his MBE from HRH Duke of Cambridge - himself a motorcycle fan - then on Sunday night he was in Andorra to receive his world championship Gold Medal at the FIM Gala evening and, to crown it all, he is one of 12 nominations for the 2017 BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award.

The triple World Superbike Champion will be up against 11 other top sportsmen and women from a wide selection of sports that includes four-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton, British No.1 tennis star Johanna Konta and Tottenham striker Harry Kane.

So just what takes Jonathan Rea from a schoolboy motocross champion to having become the first rider to clinch three WSBK titles in successive years and now a nominee for this prestigious award?

I caught up with him in the Culloden Hotel the morning after he clinched that third title in October and his personality, respect and down to earth demeanour to my mind makes him stand out in the world of motorcycle racing. He is also a strong family orientated man with absolutely no airs or graces.

I have a fair idea what Jonathan's reaction will be to being nominated for this award as, when the groundswell of opinion reckoned he should be a candidate, he commented: "I am living the dream this year and I'm flattered to be mentioned in the same breath as people I have looked up to. It's not something that I had ever thought possible or was one of my goals this season."

Married with two young sons, Jake (4) and Tyler (2), the family travel the world together, which Jonathan describes as "like any other family with two young kids going on holiday trying to get checked in at an airport, the only difference being that we are doing it basically every fortnight during the racing season."

Like all top sportsmen, Jonathan had to make many sacrifices and suffer the odd nasty injury throughout his rise to the top echelons of his chosen sport.

Family means a lot to him - he comes from a motorcycle racing family; his father Johnny an Isle of Man TT winner in 1989, he always talks about his Kawasaki Racing Team as one big family right from the factory in Japan to the crew at the race tracks.

Rea's on track exploits since moving from Honda to Kawasaki for the 2015 season have been astonishing - he has won the title every year since.

Of the 26 races in the 2017 season, he won 16, finished second seven times and third once with two non-finishes (crashes at Donington Park, where he suffered from a defective rear tyre, and then at Magny Cours, where Eugene Laverty's wayward Aprilia wiped out the rear set of the Kawasaki, forcing him out of the race). In simple terms, 26 races, 24 podiums and two non-finishes. Not a bad season's work.

Can he win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award? Yes, of course it's possible if his huge army of fans do their job in what is a public vote.

The only other motorcycle racer to win this honour was John Surtees back in 1959, while there have only been two local winners of the award, Dame Mary Peters for athletics in 1972 and Barry McGuigan for boxing in 1985.

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