Nova Peris says she's worked in the community for years without seeking attention and deserves to be at the top of Labor's Northern Territory Senate ticket.
On Tuesday the ALP's national executive formally endorsed Ms Peris as the party's No.1 candidate to represent the NT in the Senate when a poll is held later this year.
The move has triggered anger among some in the ALP who claim Ms Peris is a token appointment and that her Aboriginality and success as an Olympian are being used to try to strengthen their vote.
Ms Peris has rejected suggestions she isn't up to the job.
"I go about my business," Ms Peris told journalists on Tuesday after her pre-selection victory was made official.
"I don't seek media attention for the stuff that I have done at a community level."
She said there was no stronger message to young kids in disadvantaged communities than to see one of their own succeed.
Ms Peris was born in Darwin and grew up locally, living through the devastation of Cyclone Tracy in 1974.
Her preselection on Tuesday came about after unusual intervention from Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who said she was making a "captain's pick" to get Ms Peris onto her team.
Before being called up by the prime minister, Ms Peris was not even a member of the ALP.
The former sprinter and Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold medallist said it had been a tough period for her, after accusations she misused government funds for a girl's academy she champions and revelations she was picked up for drink-driving in the ACT.
"The personal attacks have been hurtful," she said.
Senator Trish Crossin, who was ousted from her spot at the top of the ALP's Senate ticket by Ms Peris's appointment, said the preselection process had been personally disappointing.
She ruled out standing as an independent after 30 years of membership with the ALP and trade unions.
Senator Crossin said she may have announced her retirement if she had been told she was to be cast aside so Nova Peris could be given her job.
"Perhaps if people had a discussion with me prior to last week then my retirement plans may have occurred earlier," Senator Crossin said after learning she had lost top spot on the ALP ticket.
"That didn't occur and I was put in a situation where I was told that this was going to be the outcome," she said in Darwin.
NT ALP member Marion Scrymgour, who had planned to contest preselection, was scathing of Ms Peris's appointment.
"I will be making sure that Aboriginal people in the bush clearly understand how deceitful this prime minister is, and the Labor Party," Ms Scrymgour told AAP.
"Clearly Labor hasn't learnt from the last election.
"I think that just smacks of arrogance when it comes to Aboriginal people."
Joan Peris, Nova's mother, said critics of her daughter had underestimated her.
"I always knew she was destined to be something for everybody," she said.
Jessica Peris, Nova's 22-year-old daughter, said it had been hard to hear criticisms of her mother.
"No one likes to hear negative things about their family members and especially about your mother," she said.
"I am extremely proud of her and know that she is very capable of doing a very good job," she said.