'I hated myself': Wheelchair tennis champion Dylan Alcott named 2022 Australian of the Year

Australian of the Year 2022 Dylan Alcott. Picture: Keegan Carroll
Australian of the Year 2022 Dylan Alcott. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Highly decorated tennis star Dylan Alcott added to his lengthy list of achievements on Tuesday, when he was named 2022 Australian of the Year.

Dylan Alcott has won three Paralympic gold medals in two sports; a golden slam; a Logie; an Order of Australia medal; and a world record.

What started off as self-deprecating acceptance speech, turned very emotional as Mr Alcott talked about "hating" himself because of his disability.

"I've been in a wheelchair my whole life," he said.

"I've known nothing but having a disability, and if I'm honest with you

"I'm the luckiest guy in this country, literally.

He also called for free rapid antigen tests, greater employment opportunities for people with disabilities and greater representation in all areas of the community.

Australian of the Year 2022 Dylan Alcott with partner Chantelle Otten. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Australian of the Year 2022 Dylan Alcott with partner Chantelle Otten. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Mr Alcott has been awarded one of Australia's most prestigious honours only days away from trying to take home his final Australian Open title; after which he plans to retire from wheelchair tennis.

He said despite hearing the Australian of the Year afterparty was one of the best, he wouldn't be able to attend as he would be trying to win the Australian Open in 36 hours.

"I really hope I make you proud out there," he said, choking up.

Despite his incredible achievements on the court, the 31-year-old considers disability advocacy his life's work.

Mr Alcott runs the Dylan Alcott Foundation, which helps young Australians with disabilities get engaged with sport and education by fundraising for grants, scholarships and mentorship.

He also founded disability and accessibility training start-up Get Skilled Access in 2017, and uses speaking and media engagements to advocate for people with disabilities.

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Chair of the National Australia Day Council, Danielle Roche, called the athlete an "inspiration".

"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," she 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."

Tennis champion Dylan Alcott has been named 2022 Australian of the Year. Picture: Getty

Tennis champion Dylan Alcott has been named 2022 Australian of the Year. Picture: Getty

When asked about the Australian of the Year Awards on Tuesday, Mr Alcott said he had "no chance".

"For a person of disability to win that award would be massive," he said.

"I don't even know what [winning] would mean to me, I would lose it."

Mr Alcott was a member of the Australian men's national wheelchair basketball team, the Rollers. He was only 17 years old when he won a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.

In 2016, he returned to the Paralympics - this time competing in wheelchair tennis. He won two gold medals at the Rio Paralympics in wheelchair tennis quad singles and doubles.

In 2021, Mr Alcott became the only man and only Australian to win tennis's golden slam when completed the calendar-year grand slam and took home Paralympic gold from the Tokyo Games. He has 23 grand slam titles to his name.

Mr Alcott is a paraplegic because he was born with a tumour wrapped around his spinal cord.

He has spoken about being bullied because of his disability as a child; he was introduced to wheelchair tennis as a youngster and soon fell in love with the sport.

"I started when I was about 11 and I absolutely loved it," he said.

Canberra wheelchair tennis player Matthew Leggett has spoken about the impact of Mr Alcott's high profile and advocacy on the sport.

"More people know about the sport because of him and he's doing a fantastic job at providing that exposure to our game," he said in 2019.

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