Jonathan Rea: To have an MBE and OBE like Joey makes this all the more incredible

Firstly, I’d like to wish everyone a happy new year and I hope you all had a nice Christmas.

Saturday, 8th January 2022, 1:00 pm
Updated Saturday, 8th January 2022, 1:15 pm

Hopefully, we can all embrace 2022 after what has been a difficult 2020 and 2021 for everyone with so many uncertainties. I hope this year will bring more positive vibes and opportunities for people to live a more normal life.

My year has started incredibly well after it was officially announced that I would receive an OBE this year. I had a sneaky suspicion I had been nominated and then some paperwork arrived in the post from the Cabinet Office, asking if I was happy to accept it or decline it, and of course I ticked the acceptance box.

The Press Office called me on New Year’s Eve for some quotes for the official communication, so it was a nice way to start the year and it certainly took the sting out of my hangover on January 1!

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Jonathan Rea received an MBE for services to motorcycling from the Duke of Cambridge at Buckingham Palace in 2017. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.

I was actually playing seven-a-side ‘dads’ football’ on New Year’s Eve – my kids go to soccer coaching and us dads got together and did a game – when the news started coming through to some journalists.

It was funny because big Gavin Andrews from the BBC was playing with us and I said, ‘I didn’t know if you were going to turn up with your football boots or with a camera!’

But it was quite a cool experience and I’m really humbled. I’m not big into stats or awards, but the only other person I can think of in our sport who has an MBE and OBE was Joey Dunlop, so that’s incredible and I’m in great company. It makes it all the more special for me, especially given my family connections to Joey through my grandad, who sponsored Joey, and my dad, who of course raced against Joey. It’s an honour for me to be able to fly the flag for our wee country on the world stage like Joey did.

When I went to Buckingham Palace for my MBE in 2017, it was an amazing event and a landmark moment in my life, but to be honest I never really got the chance to enjoy it because I was testing at the time in Spain. My team had no idea what an MBE was, so I was trying to explain to them how important it was and that I needed a day off from testing to fly back for it.

Jonathan Rea has won the World Superbike Championship a record six times, chalking up successive titles between 2015 and 2020.

I remember I got a late Monday night flight for a Tuesday morning presentation. It was literally a case of going straight to the presentation and then I was on my way back to the airport to fly back to Jerez. My wife flew in from the Isle of Man and both my parents, who’ve been separated a long time now, came to the Palace together, which meant a lot to me.

I’m sure it was equally as cool for them to be there and it’s a very formal experience, but of course it’s an incredible experience. I was briefed quite intensely beforehand about how I should approach the Duke of Cambridge, how I should conduct myself and also how I should exit as well.

There were these monitors in the waiting room and I could see that the Duke was spending around 30 to 45 seconds speaking to each recipient. I remember being so nervous about that because I hadn’t a clue what I was going to say to him!

But when it was my turn and I finally approached him, he was great. After the ceremony I got a little video and photo to keep and I had to go back and look to see if he had an earpiece, or some form of radio communication, because the first thing he said to me was, ‘You’ve had an incredible three seasons, congratulations on your world championships’.

I was stunned because there must have been about 100 people there to receive their accolades, yet he knew about me and that I was there for my motorcycling achievements. He was so good with everyone and he’s a motorcycling fan, which helped me because it meant we could have a chat about bikes.

I asked him if he had a bike and from memory he said he had a Ducati and a Yamaha R6. He knew I had kids because he asked me if I was worried about the dangers in the sport and something happening to me, so we chatted quite easily and I remember thinking I could’ve stood there and talked to him for half-an-hour, after initially being so nervous.

So it was really cool, but unfortunately after that it was straight back to the airport and back to work. I hope this time I have more time to go and enjoy the experience more.

My wife Tatia really enjoyed herself too and she thinks it’s hilarious that she took a bathroom selfie in Buckingham Palace!

In the second instalment of his two-part guest column next Saturday (January 15), Jonathan weighs up his prospects of winning back the World Superbike title.


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