Dylan Alcott becomes the 62nd Australian of the Year, alongside a potential 16th quad singles grand slam win in a fantastic finish to a highly decorated career to take shape at his home Grand Slam in Melbourne on Thursday.
“I love my disability,” Alcott said when he was named Australian of the Year by the Prime Minister on Tuesday night.
“It is the best thing that ever happened to me. It really is.
“I love the person that I am and the life I get to live and I’m the luckiest guy in this country, easily.”
In true Dylan Alcott fashion, he thanked others nominated for the award.
“To our frontline workers, our nurses, doctors, people running our vaccine clinics, our ambos, our firefighters. You deserve this way more than a guy who hits tennis balls and likes talking.”
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Winning Australian of the Year is only the tip of the iceberg for Alcott’s accomplishments. Within tennis alone he has won 23 quad Grand Slams in doubles and singles combined as well as four Paralympic Medals.
He won the Newcombe Medal in 2021 alongside Ash Barty for their contribution to Australian tennis through their achievements and performances.
He is the fifth winner of a Golden Slam and the first male to ever win one. The criteria for a Golden Slam is a win in the US Open, French Open, Australian Open and Wimbledon as well as a Paralympic (or Olympic) Gold Medal consecutively.
Should Alcott win the Australian Open title on Thursday, it will be his eighth straight Australian Open title. Standing in his way is Sam Schroder, the world number 2.
It was Schroder who beat Alcott last in a singles match which was the 2020 US Open semi-final.
Alcott was also a Paralympian before he hit the tennis court, when he made his debut for the Rollers (Australian men’s national wheelchair basketball team) in 2006. He was just 14 when he played his first game of wheelchair basketball and won his first bronze medal at the Wheelchair Basketball World Championship in the same year as his debut.
He was a consistent and valued member of the Rollers and made the trip with the team to the warm-up tournament for the Beijing Olympic games in 2008. Other achievements in basketball included being the Most Valuable Player in the Junior National Basketball Championships as well as making the all-star team in 2008 for the Dandenong Rangers.
He was in the Rollers team at the 2008 Summer Paralympics that won gold medals and as a result he received his Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM). He was 17 years of age and had won a gold medal.
In 2010, he won the first world championship that the Australian wheelchair basketball team had ever won. For his efforts he featured in the World All Star 5 for the entire tournament. Two years later he won a silver Summer Paralympic Medal as a part of the Rollers.
It was the off-field endeavours that really endeared Alcott to the public including founding his own charity The Dylan Alcott Foundation in 2017 which provides scholarships and grants to young and marginalised Australians that have a disability.
He launched Ability Fest, a music festival that is accessible to people with and without a disability. This was the first of its kind after he noticed music festivals were usually held in venues unsuitable or unable to be accessed safely for people with a disability.
In 2019, he wrote an autobiography called ‘Able’, about him growing up with a disability and turning to sport in order to get fit and for his mental health.
“I’ve known nothing but having a disability. And if I’m honest, I cannot tell you how much I used to hate myself,” he said.
“I hated being different and I didn’t want to be here anymore.”
“Whenever I turned on the TV, I never saw anybody like me. And whenever I did it was a road safety ad where someone drink drives, has a car accident, and the next scene is someone like me in tears because their life was over.”
Before Alcott, no wheelchair matches were played on Rod Laver Arena. He has begun the process of transforming the landscape of disabilities in sports for the better.
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