Ball State students get opportunity to cover Olympics

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (WOOD) — Every two years, countless journalists from across the globe flock to one location to cover the Olympics.

Many of them have spent years covering sports, but one group of Ball State University students is getting an early taste of covering world-class athletes at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

Josh Shelton thought his professor was joking when he asked if he was interested in covering the Olympics.

“I looked at him and said, ‘What’s the catch?” he said.

Ball State professor Ryan Sparrow wasn’t joking, as he has now taken three groups of students to three Olympics.

“I took 40 students to London, 25 to Sochi, 30 to Rio,” Sparrow said.

This year, the group is much smaller with just five students, but there is a good reason for that. Unlike in previous years, the students all have full media credentials.

The total access has allowed Grace Hollars to be in a perfect position to photograph her favorite athlete, Shaun White.

Armed with a $12,000 camera, she had a front row seat for White’s gold medal run in the half-pipe, and she nailed it.

“I have a portrait of him crying, that is my gold medal moment,” Hollars said. “He turned around, everything fell silent and he screamed at my camera, I got the most killer picture of him. I’m going to have a hard time topping that photograph the rest of my life.”

The students had to pay their way for everything in South Korea, but with all of their work appearing in media outlets around the country, it’s an investment they couldn’t afford to pass up.

“I tell them (their) clips are one thing, but when you get into job interviews, you’re going to end up talking about the Olympics for three-fourths of the interview and chances are it’s going to give you quite the leg up on the competition.”