CANBERRA, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- Two divers who helped rescue 12 Thai boys and their football coach from a flooded Thai cave have been jointly named 2019 Australians of the Year.
Richard Harris and Craig Challen were awarded the honour at a ceremony in Canberra on Friday night by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, becoming the first joint winners since 1967.
Harris, an anaesthetist from South Australia (SA), and Challen, a technical diver and cave explorer, were about to depart for a cave-diving holiday when they were called in to help rescue the football team from the cave in July 2018.
The Australian of the Year selection panel recognized the men for their "selflessness, courage and willingness to help others."
Morrison described the two men as "humble heroes who put their own lives at risk."
"You did us proud," he said.
Accepting the award, Challen said he was "astounded."
"I am really somewhat astounded that the pursuit of a hobby for the last 22 years has led to so much interest and acknowledgement and me being up here tonight," he said.
"I dearly hope that I can prove myself worthy of it."
Shortly after emerging from the cave for the final time, Harris was informed that his father had died back home during the rescue operation. He said that the duo did not expect to be awarded for their part in the rescue mission.
"After Thailand we had no idea that all of this stuff was going to go on," he told News Corp Australia.
Governor-General Peter Cosgrove in July awarded Harris and Challen the Star of Courage.
Seven other Australians who were involved in the cave rescue were also honoured with bravery awards.