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A fierce advocate for people with a disability, in 2021 Alcott became the first male tennis player in history to win the Golden Slam — all four grand slam titles plus an Olympic or Paralympic gold medal in the same year.

Alcott’s eponymous foundation seeks to remove the barriers for people with a disability seeking to get involved in sport, studying and mentoring by providing funding and grants.

2022 Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott and Prime Minister Scott Morrison during the Australian of the Year awards at the National Arboretum in Canberra. (Alex Ellinghausen)

Accepting the award on Tuesday night, he told the crowd about how we was born with a tumour wrapped around his spinal cord and cut out just a few days after birth.

“If I’m honest with you, I cannot tell you how much I used to hate myself,” he said.

“I used to hate having a disability. I hated it so much. I hated being different and, you know, I didn’t want to be here anymore. I really didn’t.

Young Australians with and without disabilities have been able to watch Alcott on court every couple of days throughout the Australian Open, and countless other tournaments over the years. They’ve heard him on youth broadcaster Triple J and seen regular media appearances.

2022 Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott during the awards ceremony. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen (Sydney Morning Herald)

But the tennis champion didn’t see that when he was younger. He said he was lucky to have “one of the best families, some of the best friends and my beautiful partner, Chantelle (Otten)” telling him he was worthy and allowed to be loved.

“Whenever I turned on the TV or the radio or the newspaper, I never saw anybody like me, and whenever I did, it was a road safety ad where someone drink drives, has a car accident,” he said.

“And what’s the next scene? Someone like me in tears ‘cos their life was over. And I thought to myself, ‘that’s not my life’ but I believed that was going to be my life.”

He paid tribute to Paralympic heroes such as Louise Sauvage, Kurt Fearnley and Danni Di Toro who would eventually show him what was possible.

Dylan Alcott has been named the 2022 Australian of the Year, becoming the first person with a disability to receive the award. (Getty)

“When I reached the end of my teenage years, I started seeing people like me,” he said.

“I also stand on the shoulders of giants. Not literally — I still can’t stand.”

The 31-year-old also runs AbilityFest, which is Australia’s only fully accessible music festival.

While the pandemic caused the postponement of the festival in 2020, the 2021 edition was held in Melbourne in November, raising $400,000 for the Dylan Alcott Foundation.

Alcott’s on-court achievements were particularly noteworthy in 2021.

Long the top-ranked male wheelchair tennis player in the world, he took his career grand slam tally to 23 titles having won at Wimbledon as well as the Australian, French and US Opens.

He also won his third tennis Paralympics gold medal in Tokyo, to go with his wheelchair basketball gold from Beijing 2008.

Dylan Alcott during the Paralympics Quad Singles Gold Medal Match
In 2021 Alcott became the first male tennis player in history to win the Golden Slam. (Getty)

The Golden Slam was duly acknowledged at Tennis Australia’s end-of-year awards ceremony, Alcott being named joint winner of the Newcombe Medal alongside Ash Barty.

“Dylan Alcott is a champion who has risen to the top of the world rankings through sheer grit and determination. His Golden Slam is an incredible feat, the first for any male tennis player,” National Australia Day Council chair Danielle Roche said.

“Dylan is an inspirational Australian on and off the tennis court.

“Through the Dylan Alcott Foundation, he is giving young Australians facing disadvantage the promise of a better future.”

Alcott is currently in the midst of his final professional tennis tournament, having announced in November he will retire after the 2022 Australian Open.

Alcott won his quad singles semi-final this afternoon to book his place in the final before leaving Melbourne for Canberra to attend the Australian of the Year awards ceremony.

2022 Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott. (Alex Ellinghausen)

He’ll be back in Melbourne on Thursday for his final against Dutchman Sam Schroder, as he attempts to win an eighth-straight Australian Open title in the final match of his career.

Earlier today, Alcott wrote himself off as having “no chance” of being named Australian of the Year but said it would be incredible for a person with a disability to take home the honour.

“To be nominated and for a person of disability to win that award would be massive,” he said after winning his semi-final.

Dylan Alcott
Alcott will be back in Melbourne on Thursday for his Australian Open final. (Getty)

“And I can’t be sitting in my bedroom on Zoom with bad internet if I did win. So, I’m going to go up.

“I don’t think I’m any chance.”

Meanwhile, the ACT’s Valmai Dempsey, a St John Ambulance volunteer, was named the Senior Australian of the Year, while Street Side Medics founder Daniel Nour is the Young Australian of the Year.

Shanna Whan was named Australia’s Local Hero.

Source: 9News

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