Wollongong and the nation's greatest swimmer Emma McKeon can add another major award to her overflowing trophy shelf, being recognised as a Member of the Order of Australia.
McKeon, Australia's most successful Olympian of all time, was announced as one of the Illawarra's two AM recipients by the Governor-General David Hurley - himself born in Wollongong - in the honours list.
And in her own truly humble style, McKeon said she can forget about the scale of her achievements until occasions remind her.
McKeon was cited for "significant service to swimming as a gold medallist at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games".
University of Wollongong professor Hua Kun Liu was also awarded an AM, for significant service to scientific research and education.
Australia's most decorated Olympian, McKeon won seven medals at the Tokyo games in 2021, including four gold - all in record time.
Her seven-medal haul is the equal greatest number of medals ever won by a female athlete at any single Olympic Games.
She was also overall champion at the FINA World Championships and was named World Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World.
McKeon, 27, said she regarded the award as a huge honour, and it sometimes took events like this to make her realise the significance of what she had achieved.
"It's still all a bit hard to digest. Reaching those heights, winning all those medals, it's something I never really thought about it much leading in to Tokyo," she told the Sydney Morning Herald. "It's something I might have dreamed about as a kid but that's about it.
"Now to have done something like all of those amazing swimmers, Phelps and Thorpe and those sort of champions, it's hard for me to think of myself like that.
"I kind of forget about it.
"I don't really see myself like that, so when I get these sort of awards, that's what makes it more real for me and helps me realise what I've achieved."
She can add her AM to Wollongong's Citizen of the Year award, which was announced by Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery.
"I'm a very proud Wollongong person, and Wollongong has a very special place in my heart, and I will always call it home," McKeon said in a video message after the award was announced.
"I'm very grateful for the support Wollongong has given me my whole swimming career ... I could definitely feel the support while I was over in Tokyo.
"I'll be getting back training soon and gearing up for the Commonwealth Games, so hopefully I can do Wollongong proud again."
McKeon's shelf already featured a Medal of the Order of Australia, awarded in 2017 after her performance at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, where she won gold, two silvers and a bronze medal.
Last year the former Illawarra Grammar School student got behind the campaign to vaccinate the Illawarra, in the interests of community safety.
General Hurley highlighted the fact 47 per cent of awards in the General Division went to women - the highest percentage yet. And he asked citizens to think about next year.
"To all Australians, please consider nominating someone outstanding from your community for recognition in the Order of Australia," he said.
"The Order belongs to each of us and we each have a part to play. The only way a person can be recognised is for someone to nominate them."
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