North coast local and Paralympian, Jacqueline Freney, has been honoured as the 2014 Young Australian of the Year at a special ceremony in Canberra on Saturday.
The inspiring 21-year-old Skennars Head resident, who won the hearts of many Australians with her record haul of eight gold medals at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, took her latest award with a mix of pride and humility.
Jacqueline is among more than 30 Paralympic gold medallists to be awarded an Order of Australia medal in recognition of their services to sport.
She told AAP she was ‘just so proud and honoured’.
Jacqueline was born with cerebral palsy diplegia, which restricts movement of her legs. Her eight victories and two world records in London made her the most successful athlete ever at a single Games.
They also earned her the crown of Australian Paralympian of the Year and Female Paralympian of the Year in 2012.
‘I knew that Australia drew a lot of inspiration from what I achieved over in London,’ she said.
‘And looking back now, I understand what an amazing phenomenon and feat it was to achieve eight Paralympic gold medals at one Games.
‘I feel so blessed and humbled to have accomplished so much already in my career, as I just love swimming so much.
‘I thank Australia with all my heart for providing me with the opportunities and support needed to realise my dreams.’
The Australia Day honours list includes fellow Paralympic gold medal swimmers Ellie Cole and Maddison Elliott, cyclists Susan Powell and David Nicholas, and the Australian wheelchair rugby team.
Cycling gold medallists Carol Cooke and Kieran Modra, as well as sailor Liesl Tesch, were also appointed Members of the Order of Australia.