“Please understand that I’m just a country girl who was born with extra life challenges.” Jacqueline Freney
Only recent, we were in awe of Maysoon Zayid’s exhilarating and hilarious Ted talk about living with cerebral palsy as a Muslim woman in New Jersey who, after finding her ethnicity and disability limiting to her career, turned to comedy and became the first Muslim woman to do stand-up comic in the United States.
But we needn’t look far for inspirational stories of young women who pursue their dreams despite circumstances. On Saturday, Brisbane athlete Jacqueline Freney received the honour as Young Australian of the Year for 2014.
She too suffers from cerebral palsy.
“Please understand that I’m just a country girl who was born with extra life challenges,” Jacqueline told the Canberra crowd.
“I’m an example of how a child with special needs can develop and achieve with support, guidance, encouragement and opportunity.”
The 21 year old is a Paralympic swimmer whose achievements, tenacity and commitment are proof that we are all capable of greatness.
Being born with cerebral palsy has not stopped Jacqueline Freney from achieving great success in the sporting arena. Following in the footsteps of her swimming family, Jacqueline set herself the goal to become a competitive swimmer.
In 2012, Jacqueline won a remarkable eight gold medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, becoming Australia’s most successful Paralympian at a single Games. Two of Jacqueline’s performances were under world record time. She won a gold medal for every event in which she competed and her gold medal haul was greater than any other competitor from any country. Her success earned her the crown of Australia’s 2012 Paralympian of the Year.
“I ask that all Australians respect each other’s diversity and acknowledge their ability to contribute to this great country.”
Jacqueline’s indomitable spirit is not confined to the swimming pool. She is actively involved in the wider community, working with Swimming Australia as a motivational speaker to help other people with disabilities reach their potential. Jacqueline is an inspirational role model and positive proof that, with hard work and determination, anything is possible.
Australian of the Year 2014 – Adam Goodes (NSW)
Senior Australian of the Year 2014 – Fred Chaney AO (WA)
Young Australian of the Year 2014 – Jacqueline Freney (NSW)
Australia’s Local Hero 2014 – Tim Conolan (VIC)