Watch: Your BBC Sports Personality of the Year votes would mean so much to me, says Jonathan Rea
Triple World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea has called on Northern Ireland to get behind him during Sunday evening's BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards.
The Ballyclare man is now third favourite to win the top accolade and make it a trophy-laden weekend, adding to his International Recognition award from the Mary Peters Trust at a star-studded Legends Lunch yesterday, co-hosted by the Trust and Sports Changes Life charity.
But if Rea is to pip odds-on favourite, boxer Anthony Joshua, and F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton at the Liverpool Echo Arena, he needs your backing. The winner will be decided by public vote during Sunday evening's live show between 6.45pm and 9pm. Voting will take place either by phone or online.
- How many votes is Jonathan Rea likely to need to win BBC Sports Personality of the Year and how do I cast mine?
"I'm just humbled that somebody would think to vote for me," said Rea. "To vote, you actually have to pick up the phone or register online. It would mean the most if people got behind me. In Northern Ireland, we stick up for our own. If people can get behind me, we can be proud of flying the flag for our country."
Rea won the World Superbikes title for a historic third year in a row in September but he’s not hopeful he can claim the BBC’s top sporting gong.
“To actually think about winning is a little bit too far-fetched a dream,” he said.
“To be there on the night is the icing on the cake. The last three seasons have been great and to be finally recognised at a national event is incredible.
"I've had so many messages and support, especially from people in Northern Ireland who have followed my career since it started. That means the most. I'll be flying the motorcycling flag and the Northern Ireland flag in punching above our weight. It gives my wife an excuse to buy a new frock anyway."
Rea says he is already excited to begin his 2018 season but for now, is making sure to enjoy the moment.
"My 2017 was unbelievable," he said. "I don't really have any words. I'm living in a bubble and trying to enjoy each and every moment. This isn't going to last forever. I want to make the most of being on top. Everyone else is trying to step up and it's my job to respond and be prepared even better for 2018."
Rea was one of the special guests at Friday’s Belfast Waterfront Hall fund raising event, alongside international football managers Michael O’Neill and Martin O’Neill, world champion boxer Ryan Burnett, fellow fighter Jamie Conlan and North West 200 winner Glenn Irwin.
Members of Ulster’s 1999 European Cup winning rugby team were also in the audience, helping to raise funds for the Mary Peters Trust and Sport Changes Life charities, both aiding the development of young talent, the Trust through sport and SCL through sporting educational opportunities,
The Rory McIlroy Foundation, which has aided both, was also represented.