American archer Brady Ellison seeks elusive gold medal at his 5th Olympics

Brady Ellison wants to further secure his place at the top of archery history.

The 35-year-old American has qualified for his fifth Olympics, first having competed in 2008 in Beijing. He has won three Olympic medals and has spent a significant amount of time ranked No. 1 in the world in recurve.

He wants more. He's currently ranked No. 4 in the world and feels he's got a legitimate shot at that elusive Olympic gold medal. He earned silver in the team competition in 2012 and 2016 and a bronze in the individual competition in 2016.

With all his other accomplishments considered, he believes reaching the top of the podium in Paris would undoubtedly place him among the greatest of the greats.

“It’s always been a goal of mine to be one of the best that’s ever lived,” he said. “I still feel like I’m shooting good. I’m still one of the top archers in the world."

He’s had moments where it appeared possible to win gold. He entered the Tokyo Olympics ranked No. 1 in the world, but lost to Turkey's Mete Gazoz in the quarterfinals.

“I wouldn’t say anything necessarily went wrong,” he said. “I missed when I couldn’t miss. I had an opportunity and I should have won the set when I didn’t win a set. I thought the wind was blowing, I misread it. Shot one out right and then the next arrow I put out left. If either one of those would have hit, then it might have been a different match.”

Ellison oozes with confidence, and he passes that onto others. He has teamed up with current women’s world No. 1 Casey Kaufhold with great success. The pair won gold at the Pan-American Games in the mixed team event in 2019, when Kaufhold was 15.

Kaufhold recalls how helpful Ellison was as a mentor in the lead-up to those Pan-Am Games.

“He could tell that I was like, hesitant,” Kaufhold said. “He could tell I was a little nervous. And he talked to me a lot about making sure, even though this seems huge, not doing anything special. Just do what you know how to do, shoot your shot and just have fun. And so he’s helped me a lot through a lot of things.”

Ellison is relatively healthy now after having dealt with painful injuries and medical issues over the years. As a child, he suffered from Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease and wore leg braces. He had surgery to stabilize one of his knees so it would stop coming out of the socket from just walking around. He has injured the fingers on his drawing hand and had hip issues. At the Pan-American games last year, he injured a shoulder joint and his collarbone.

None of that has caused him to consider scaling back or giving up the sport.

“I’m good at it,” he said. “I’ve been able to stay top seven in the world since 2010. I’m the top paid U.S. guy, and this is all I do. This is how I pay my bills and everything like that. So, I’ll keep fighting and I’ll keep rehabbing, and I’ll keep getting over everything that I can so I don’t have to go get a real job.”

Ellison’s outgoing personality mixes well with the energy of the crowds. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were no crowds in Tokyo. He looks forward to shooting in front of fans.

“I definitely think that you feed off the crowd,” he said. “I think that’s true with any sport. And, it’s a lot different when you’re shooting the biggest tournament you ever shoot in your life, and there’s crickets in the stadium versus people that can get behind you and cheer you on and make some noise.”

Though he’d like to bring home the gold, he understands that a lot must go right for that to happen.

“That’s the thing about the Olympics,” he said. “When it comes down to that finals day, that medals day, anybody who’s still in it, they get hot, they’re going to be really hard to beat, no matter who they’re shooting against.”


AP Olympics