Living the Dream: alumna reports on the Olympics

3 August 2012

Amanda Shalala
Amanda Shalala: "Sport is life, the rest is mere detail."

Arts and Social Sciences alumna Amanda Shalala is at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London as a reporter. A self-confessed sports addict who loves the thrill of competition, Amanda is working hard to pave the way for Australian women in sport.

Only 26, Amanda has a very impressive résumé already. She was the first ever female recipient of the ABC Television Sports Broadcaster Internship in 2007, and is currently working at the national broadcaster as a sports reporter, as well as providing updates on Triple J's Drive with the Doctor.

During Amanda's internship, her practical experience was complemented by studying a Master's in Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney, which provided her with a holistic understanding of the socio-cultural factors involved in sport.

She is now heading to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games as a sports reporter, realising her life-long dream of reporting at this prestigious event.

Amanda shares her career experiences and passions with us.

1. What are your happiest memories about your time here as a student?

Going to the University of Sydney was incredible - I felt like this was where I belonged. But what went on during my course was what really fired me up. I was challenged every day and was learning constantly.

2. Who was your favourite Professor while you were a student at the University of Sydney and why?

Dr Jane Park was my favourite - she taught Gender, Media and Consumer Societies. She was from America so it was great to have a different cultural perspective. She fostered an environment where all thoughts were welcome and was really encouraging to each of us to extend ourselves, which was good in helping me get outside of my comfort zone.

3. What is your proudest achievement?

Covering the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, because that came very soon after I finished my internship so I was still very much a junior journalist. It was incredible to cover an event of such a massive scale in another country that has its own customs and traditions.

This coverage won the ABC a lot of awards and I felt really proud to be a part of that.

4. Who inspires you?

From a personal point of view, it would have to be my parents. They came to Australia 35 years ago from a small village in Lebanon without much to their name. My dad always tells me out of the whole world he chose Australia and it's the best decision he ever made. I can't believe that they came from a war-torn country and have built a life here so they could provide me with everything I ever needed.

That's why I grew up without any doubt, knowing that I could always achieve anything I wanted - because I saw my parents do that.

My sporting idol is Adam Gilchrist because he is an incredible all-round athlete and conducted himself so well both on and off the field. He is one of the people that made me want to become a sports journalist. I haven't met him yet. I almost met him last year when we were supposed to be appearing on the same TV show, but things didn't work out and I was so devastated. This is my dream - I have to meet him!

5. What is the mantra you live by?

Sport is life, the rest is mere detail.

6. What are your plans for the future?

The number one goal I have is to cover the Olympics and Paralympics, and that's going to happen in the next month. After that I would love to cover the 2014 Football World Cup in Brazil.

Beyond that I would like to get into production of longer segments or documentaries. You can tell all sorts of stories about Australia and Australians through sport, so that's the vehicle I choose.

7. What are the major challenges you think sport in Australia faces?

I think that female and disability sports are two areas where Australia has a lot of room for improvement in comparison with countries like the UK and the US.

The ABC's charter is very much about representing all facets of Australian society and I'd really like to see these areas getting the coverage they deserve. If we promote these with wider coverage then people will get more involved. I love communicating my passion about these particular areas to others so I can convert the 'non-believers' into loving it.

8. What drives you?

To be the best sports journalist and broadcaster I can be. I set very high standards for myself and I always strive to achieve them. I don't really accept anything less than that from myself.

I am a little bit of a workaholic and I get into trouble because I stay back late and work on my days off! Because I write, edit and produce my own material, I want to make sure that every single element of what I'm doing is at a really high standard. The goal is there in the distance, that one day I'll perfect the craft of being a sports journalist.

9. What advice would you give to students graduating from the University of Sydney?

To not be afraid of chasing what you want to achieve. Having been at the University of Sydney I know that it gives you a grounding to excel and you can't be intimidated by what's outside of the University walls. Have no fear and no limits.

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