The Newtownabbey community is being urged to get behind local motorcycle star Jonathan Rea MBE as he bids to win this year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.
The World Superbike Champion is one of 12 nominees in the running for the prestigious accolade, which will see him compete against stars from a number of sports including Sir Mo Farah, Lewis Hamilton and Anthony Joshua.
The Ballyclare man has earned his place on the 2017 panel thanks to a record breaking season which saw him become the first rider to win three consecutive world titles, while setting a new record points total in the process.
Ahead of Sunday’s final in the Echo Arena, Liverpool, Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Cllr Paul Hamill has called on residents to back the former Ballynure Primary School pupil.Cllr Hamill said: “It was a fantastic achievement for Jonathan to win his third world title in a row and it has put Ballyclare on the map.
“Jonathan would be a very worthy winner of the Sports Personality of the Year award and we would encourage people from across the borough to show their support for a local sports star and vote for him.”
The DUP representative added: “Jonathan has achieved so much in his sporting career and I have no doubt that he will go on to achieve a lot more.
“We’re delighted that he has been nominated and wish him and his family every success, not just for this weekend, but for future racing seasons.”
Fellow motorcycling star and Ballyclare man, Jamie Hamilton has praised his friend’s achievements.
Speaking to the Times, Jamie said: “Ballyclare is not a big place when you think of the length and breadth of the UK, so I think it’s great to see someone from the town being put up for this award.
“He missed out on a nomination for the award last year after winning the World Superbike title back-to-back and I think the organisers have realised they got it wrong.
“This year he has three titles to his name- he is definitely a great in motorcycle racing.”
Jamie added: “Jonathan is up against some stiff opposition for the award, so it will be tough and he will need the whole of Northern Ireland behind him to make it happen, but he completely deserves it.
“Jonathan is a great ambassador for the area and for the sport. To come from where he has and for what he has achieved, you can’t put it into words.
“We’re lucky that he is from our wee town of Ballyclare and it would be great if we could all get behind him and help him get the best result possible to bring it home to Ballyclare.”
The public will be able to vote for their favourite nominee by phone and online during the live show on December 17.
Voting details, including phone numbers for each nominee, are announced during the programme and online. There is no voting via email, Red Button or by text.