Dylan Alcott has used his domination of wheelchair tennis as a platform to become a hero to numerous Australians as a champion for changing perceptions of people with disability.
The 31-year-old sporting great, who collected the rare golden slam last year - winning all four majors and lining them with Paralympic gold - has been named the Australian of the Year for 2022. He was also appointed an Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia.
The Australia Day Honours also features swimming legend Emma McKeon, basketball star Patty Mills and Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo being appointed Members (AM) of the Order of Australia.
Alcott, from Melbourne, has been recognised for his distinguished service to Paralympic sport and as a role model for people with disability, and to the wider community.
The appointment is also reflective of Alcott's remarkable tennis career; he has a record 15 grand slam singles titles and eight major doubles crowns to his name.
However, it is away from the sporting arena where he hopes he has made his most significant impact.
"Changing perception, that's what I got this (AO) for, not for winning tennis tournaments," Alcott said, adding that he was shocked when notified of his accolade.
"That's why I'm pretty emotional about it.
"I'm so proud to be Australian and it's just incredible, it really is."
Alcott was born with a tumour wrapped around his spinal cord. The surgery left him a paraplegic and he has spoken about being bullied about his disability as a child.
He has said he "hated" himself growing up, but credits sport with saving his life.
Alcott, who was also part of Australia's successful men's wheelchair basketball team before switching to tennis, claimed his first grand slam title in 2015.
In 2017 he founded the Dylan Alcott Foundation - a charity aimed at helping young Australians with disabilities gain confidence, fulfil their potential. Alcott will retire from tennis after the Australian Open but has vowed to continue trying to build his legacy.
"(It won't change) just because I'm finishing tennis," he said.
"I'm very purpose-driven and my purpose is to change perception so people with a disability can live the lives they deserve to live.
"Not just in sport - in employment, education, film, television, dating, going to bars, going to festivals.
"I asked myself when I made the decision to retire, 'Have I done that in tennis?', and I feel like I have.
"Now it's time for me to do something else, but that purpose will never stop."
More than 30 sports men and women received Medals (OAM) of the Order of Australia, including Tokyo Olympics swimming champion Ariarne Titmus and Matildas soccer star Sam Kerr.
Australian Associated Press
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