At sixteen, most of us are engrossed in frivolous teenage dilemmas.
But Faizal Khamisa was busy fighting a much greater battle. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and he used that profound experience to strive for greatness.
“It gave me a sense of perspective at a very young age. It pushed me to want to be happy all the time. When I was in university studying business and psychology, I realized it didn’t make me happy,” he said.
“I did not want cancer to define me. I did not want to become this negative person as a result of it.”
In his final year of undergrad at the University of Windsor, Khamisa started his own sports blog. Its success pushed him to apply to the College of Sports Media where he caught the attention of a major sportscaster.
“In my final couple months of second year I got an email from the general manager who worked at theScore at the time. He asked me to come in for an audition and I successfully got through, which was a surprise,” he said.
Not too long after signing a contract with them, Sportsnet bought theScore and four years later Khamisa now sits on the Sportsnet sports specialty channel’s top TV anchor desk.
In an industry that demands years of experience to make it big, Khamisa admits that he was “very lucky to have gotten a job in a very big market right away.”
Sportsnet’s Faizal Khamisa
Still, he had to fight the grind.
“I kind of had to pave my own way through it. I put in a lot of work to get there. I overcame many obstacles to push myself to want to do this,” he said.
As a visible minority on a major media platform, the work does come with its fair share of negativity, but he chooses not to indulge it and remains steadfast in his passion.
“I still look at this as a big dream. When I was a kid watching those games on TV, I’d say ‘I want to be there’ and now to be there is crazy.”
“There’s a lot of it (the negativity), believe me. Being a minority in television comes with a decent amount of hate at times. I first let it affect me, but now I’m way more comfortable and confident in my career and in my abilities,” he said. “If someone’s racist, I move on.”
ESPN’s Adnan Virk remains someone he looks up to as a fellow industry professional and minority. “He was one of the trailblazers for me who made it possible to think this was a reality for me.”
Faizal Khamisa’s workday begins at 11 a.m. when he meets with producers to go over what’s going on in the sports world. An hour later, he gives his first 5-minute news update.
“That continues through the course of the day, at the top of every hour, while at the bottom of every hour at the 30 mark, we do a one-minute update as well,” he said.
Now he works closely with Tim and Sid, the very people he’s grown up admiring. Khamisa often fills in as a co-anchor on their show, and works with them daily.
“I’m lucky to work with the two of them right now. They are so good at their job and I remember watching them every single night on theScore when they had their flagship show,” he said.
The 28-year-old anchor is still young and eager to prove his worthiness – it’s what drives him through long hours in an industry where sacrifice is an important part of seizing opportunity. Nonetheless, he’s learned to experience life outside the sports world. In fact, during the week he finds plenty of time to completely disengage.
“I don’t need to do that anymore – to watch every single game and remember every single detail of it to do my job well,” he said.
But you couldn’t tell that when you see Khamisa deliver his quirky sports updates.
“It looks simple but it’s nowhere near that. The editors put in their work, the directors do their job, the person who rolls the script is as valuable as anyone else because I don’t always have time to look at my script and I rely on them to be there. I’m very grateful for everyone that I work with,” he said.
Khamisa exemplifies perseverance and optimism. He doesn’t live under the shadow of his former diagnosis and strives to inspire young people to go after their dreams.
“As bad as the cancer was, as daunting as the challenge to overcome that was, and as painful as my body still is right now, it was the best thing that ever happened to me because it changed the way I think about life,” he said.