“It’s time for you to challenge your unconscious biases, leave your negative perceptions at the door and lift your expectation of what you think people with disability can do. Because it’s always more than you think.” – Dylan Alcott
While the 2022 Australian Open will aways be remembered for Ash Barty’s drought-breaking championship win, it was also the final curtain for tennis legend and recently crowned Australian of the Year, Dylan Alcott. It wasn’t the fairy-tale end to his career he would have liked, but it was a fitting stage to farewell the history-making athlete.
The Australian Open was always going to be Dylan’s final act. The scene of a record seven quad singles titles and a thunderous home crowd the rightful way to cap off a career haul encompassing 15 grand slam singles titles, eight grand slam doubles titles, four Paralympic gold and two silver medals.
Really, there wasn’t much left to accomplish after a record-shattering 2021. When you follow an Olympic gold medal with Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open wins to claim the illustrious Golden Slam, where on earth do you go from there?
To put it into perspective, Dylan was the first male in history to claim a Golden Slam. Ever. Of any ability. Steffi Graf is the only other player to have managed that elusive feat, topping her four majors with gold in Seoul back in 1988. So quite the achievement for the humble dual athlete from Melbourne, whose larger-than-life Aussie larrikin personality has endeared him to crowds as much as his exceptional ability.
Dylan’s astonishing achievements in tennis, matched by his equally impressive accomplishments in basketball, are undeniably awe-inspiring. But it’s his off-field efforts to alter the way people with disabilities are perceived in the wider community that really sets him apart. And that’s where Dylan will concentrate his efforts now that’s he’s officially called time on his illustrious tennis career.
As a TV commentator, radio DJ and popular motivational speaker, Dylan uses his public stage to normalise and destigmatise disability, sharing his unwavering belief that absolutely anything is possible.
While not every person with a disability has the skill or desire to become an Olympic athlete, Dylan is proof that being disabled is no barrier to success, nor to happiness. Dylan’s projects off the court, which include The Dylan Alcott Foundation, Ability Fest and Get Skilled Access, are testaments to these fundamental beliefs of his.
It’s these beliefs, along with his relentless dedication to changing perceptions, that earned Dylan the 2022 Australian of the Year award – the first person with a visible disability to secure the title in the award’s 62-year history. Another magnificent achievement, and one that may just mean more to Dylan than any of his other accolades.
As Dylan said in his acceptance speech, “Winning grand slams and gold medals isn’t my purpose. It’s like the 30th priority of my life. My purpose is changing perceptions so people with disability, people like me, can get out there and live the lives that they deserve to live.”
And what a role model he’s been. Whether he’s playing a world-record setting 24hr charity tennis marathon, wheelchair crowd-surfing at music festivals, chugging back beer from his US Open trophy or advocating for the disabled, Dylan Alcott has earned his Aussie legend status. He’s aced life on and off the court, and if he says being disabled doesn’t have to be a disadvantage, who are we to argue?
We can’t wait to hear what’s next for the Aussie champ, but for now? All we can say is well played Dylan, well played.
If you’d like to engage Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott to share his unique and inspiring journey with your team, get in touch with us for a chat. We also have a number of other worthy Australian of the Year winners we can introduce you to, including Rosie Batty AO, Dr. Craig Challen, Dr. Richard Harris and Grace Tame – all wonderful motivational speakers with incredible stories to tell.