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Dylan Alcott hated his disability. Now it's 'the best thing that ever happened to him'.

Dylan Alcott says his disability is the "best thing that ever happened" to him. 

"It really is... I love my disability," the 31-year-old said as he accepted the 2022 Australian of the Year award on Tuesday.

But he didn't always feel that way.

"If I'm honest with you, I cannot tell you how much I used to hate myself," he said as he became the first person with a disability to win the award. 

"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."

"And, 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 and what's the next scene? Someone like me in tears because their life was over.

"I thought to myself, 'That's not my life', but I believed that was going to be my life."

The Paralympian, Logie winner, philanthropist, media commentator and advocate now considers himself "the luckiest guy in the country". 

"I'm so lucky that I had one of the best families, some of the best friends, my beautiful partner and my whole team who told me that I was worthy."

"I love the person that I am and the life I get to live."

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Following Alcott's Australian of the Year win, we decided to take a look back at his life and career. 

Here's everything we know about Dylan Alcott. 

Growing up with a disability.

Alcott was born with a tumour wrapped around his spinal cord. When he was only a couple of days old he underwent surgery to remove it which left him paraplegic.

"I've been in a wheelchair my whole life... I've known nothing but having a disability," he said in his Australian of the Year acceptance speech. 

Growing up in the suburbs of Melbourne with his older brother Zack, Alcott "didn't mind having a disability" at first. Then the bullying started. 

"I started getting bullied about it and realised that I was different," he told 9Honey in 2020. "I got in my own head and then it ruined my life for two years."

After keeping quiet about the bullying to his family, he eventually opened up to Zack, who offered him some wise words of advice. 

"Zack told me that for every idiot that gives you a hard time there are thousands that are worth hanging out with," he told the publication. 

"If it wasn't for Zack, I don't think I'd be here doing what I do today."

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Grand slams and gold medals. 

At 31 years old, Alcott has a long list of achievements and a full trophy case to match. 

When he was just 18, he received an Order of Australia medal in 2009 for services to sport.

The tennis star has also won 23 quad wheelchair Grand Slam titles and became the first man to win a 'golden slam' of all four major singles titles last year.

He also seven Australian Open titles to his name is about to compete for his eighth at the Australian Open quad wheelchair singles final on Thursday.

Alcott has also represented Australia at the Paralympics in both wheelchair basketball and tennis, earning himself four gold medals throughout his career. 

But after taking home countless wins in Australia and overseas, Alcott announced he will officially be hanging up his tennis racket and retiring from professional tennis after the Australian Open.

"I am so proud and proud of the work we have done, to be honest. Being a good tennis player is not the priority of my life. Being a good person is," he said when he announced his retirement in November.

"Being a good advocate and changing perceptions for people like me so they can live lives they deserve to live and get the opportunities I have had. I am so lucky."

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His success off the court. 

When he's not on the court, Alcott is busy being a passionate disability advocate. 

In 2017, he founded the Dylan Alcott Foundation to help young Aussies with disabilities "overcome the barriers of entry to sport and education by providing fundraising for grants, scholarships and mentoring".

The same year, he co-founded Get Skilled Access, a disability and accessibility training start-up. 

He also runs AbilityFest, Australia's first and only fully accessible music festival. 

During his Australian of the Year speech, Alcott called for "greater representation of people with a disability absolutely everywhere". 

"In our boardrooms, in our parliaments, in our mainstream schools, on our dating apps, on our sporting fields, in our universities, absolutely everywhere, so we get the opportunity to start living our lives, just like everybody else."

He also had a message for non-disabled people, saying, "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 a disability can do.

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"Because there's always more than you think."

Listen: Chantelle Otten chats to Mia Freedman about her relationship with Dylan Alcott on the No Filter podcast. Post continues below. 

His relationship with Chantelle Otten. 

Outside of his work, Alcott is dating sexologist Chantelle Otten, who was there to congratulate him on his Australian of the Year win. 

"I am bursting with pride," she wrote in a heartfelt Instagram post after the awards. 

"I adore being your partner and will be cheering you on every single day, screaming your name with the rest of team Alcott and Aussies alike.You’ve already made Australia so proud, let’s have fun with this year."

The pair first met back in 2018 at Alcott's book signing for his best-selling autobiography Able. 

At the time, Otten had "no idea" who he was. 

"I was with my friend... and that night I was dealing with PMS, my hair was slicked back, I was wearing an old t-shirt and sneakers. I think it was just, you know, one of those days where you're just like, I am mopey as. And I was so looking forward to going to dinner, but we had to go to this book signing, Otten told Mamamia's No Filter podcast. 

"I looked across the room, and I saw him and I just went: 'Ah, that's my person'. That's the person I'm going to be with for the rest of my life."

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"I really felt this wave come over my body. And he was just so beautiful to look at and the way that he spoke. And I think that I just recognised that what he was doing was so similar to what I was doing. I really felt like I had met my match at that point."

But despite the sparks, Otten was too shy to utter a word to him.

"This was a kind of connection that I knew would work out. But I was just very silent at the back of the room. I didn't speak. I didn't ask a question."

"I just stared at him. In a creepy way."

"I put up on my Instagram a post about the talks and about sex and disability. And then he sent me a message and said, 'I saw you down the back of the room. Where did you go?' And I was like, 'I'm shy', and so he said, 'Oh, come talk to me next time'. Which was when I said, 'Well, why don't we go get a drink?'"

And that they did. 

Fast forward a few years and the couple now live together in Melbourne with their sausage dog, Sauce.

Feature Image: Getty/Mamamia. 

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