Three-time World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea has been named the 2017 BBC Northern Ireland Sports Personality of the Year.
The award comes hot on the heels of Ballyclare man Rea’s sensational runner-up spot in the overall BBC Sports Personality of The Year Awards on Sunday in Liverpool.
It was a unanimous decision from the judges following the 30-year-old racer’s record-breaking season, which saw him create history by becoming the first person to win three successive World Superbike titles.
Rea said: “It’s incredible. Like I say, time after time, our country punches above its weight in all sports, not just motorsports. So to be recognised as part of all sports put together - it’s an award that really means a lot. Thank you very much.”
After receiving his MBE at Buckingham Palace from Prince William in November, Rea reflected further on what it means to have so much support from his fans at home in Northern Ireland.
“Most of my childhood here growing up, motorsport racing in motocross, they’re the best days of my life. So, yeah, to come back home and always see the support I have from back home and on social media - this award means a lot. It’s a big thing.
“After Sports Personality of The Year in Liverpool, and now to receive this, I can firmly switch off 2017 and look towards ’18. But this really means a lot. Thank you very much.”
Jane Tohill, Executive Producer Sport BBC Northern Ireland, added: “It’s always difficult to select the winner. We are very lucky to have so many talented sporting stars in Northern Ireland who excel in teams and individually. But Jonathan’s success this year means he’s a worthy winner.
“Jonathan’s result at the Sports Personality awards on Sunday night also reflects the respect he has across the UK for what he has achieved, and, how he has achieved his success. So we’re really pleased to award him the 2017 BBC Northern Ireland Sports Personality of the Year.”
Rea will spend Christmas with his wife Tatia and sons Jake and Tyler in Australia before taking a break from pre-season testing in Spain to attend the Cornmarket Motorbike Awards in Belfast on January 26, when he is the overwhelming favourite to be crowned Irish Motorcyclist of the Year for the third consecutive time.