Belfast Telegraph

Thanks for the votes but sorry about the phone bill, says Rea

By Gareth Hanna

Jonathan Rea reckons he cost the Northern Ireland viewing public a fortune on Sunday night, but wasn't it worth it?

"There is going to be some phone bill in our little country," laughed the three-time World Superbike champion after he was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year runner-up, polling an incredible 80,567 votes - just 3,000 fewer than winner Mo Farah.

Given the huge public drive for Rea to be nominated for the first time, it's perhaps unsurprising that the fans backed up their demands by having their say on the night.

But for the Ballyclare man, it was a nice surprise to attract more votes than the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Anthony Joshua and Harry Kane.

"I'm quite taken aback to be honest," he said. "I had no expectation to be even placed in the awards.

"To be called out second was incredibly strange. This was a public vote so I need to thank each and every person that lifted the phone. You've made my dream come true."

It's been a phenomenal year for Rea, to say the least. His record-breaking third successive World title was swiftly followed by an MBE and now runner-up in one of the UK's best loved awards.

"It's an incredible way to cap 2017," he said. "It's been a dream come true to win three World Championships on the bounce. To cap it all off at the end of the season is incredible.

"I'm lost for words. It really means a lot to do this for motorcycling. The last motorcycling nomination was 10 years ago. To make an entrance on my Kawasaki motorbike and to be voted for by the public was incredible.

"I had a word with my wife, Tarsh, and she asked if I was nervous. I said no because I was just happy to be here. All the talk leading up to the event and the support through social media, I could see it all but I never in my wildest dreams thought that people would get behind me that much."

Now the trouble is how to follow it all in 2018. And Rea's answer is realistic - he can't.

"It's an incredibly high level to even think about sustaining," he said. "What we did this season on the track, I can't even aim to do that next year. Sixteen race wins out of 26 races is unheard of. I know I can't start to feel like this is normal because it's not. I need to savour this moment. Right now, this is my time.

"Next year it could be someone else, 2017 has been incredibly kind to me. It must be odd numbers as 2013 was the birth of my son Jake, 2015 was my first World Championship and the birth of Tyler, now 2017 is beyond my wildest dreams."

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