Paralympic swimmer Jacqueline Freney has been named Young Australian of the Year for her efforts in and out of the pool.

Jacqueline Freney is no stranger to a podium but usually it’s right beside a swimming pool.

On Saturday it wasn’t another gold medal for the Paralympic swimmer but instead a national honour, as the 21-year-old was named Young Australian of the Year for 2014.

“This is a significant day not only for me but for also for the Paralympic movement as it reflects the unique role Paralympians play in society,” the Brisbane-born athlete said as she accepted her award.

Cerebral palsy has not stopped Freney achieving sporting success, and at the London 2012 Games she won eight gold medals – the greatest haul by any athlete in the Australian team.

In fact, she won a gold medal for every event in which she competed and set two world records.

The performance earned her the crown as Australia’s 2012 Paralympian of the Year.

“Please understand that I’m just a country girl who was born with extra life challenges,” Freney 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.

“I ask that all Australians respect each other’s diversity and acknowledge their ability to contribute to this great country.”

Freney’s efforts have continued out of the pool, working with Swimming Australia as a motivational speaker to inspire other athletes with disabilities.

Freney’s current focus is training for the 2016 Rio Paralympics.

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