Brady Ellison talks Olympics - past and present
His face is the face of U.S. Olympic archery.
There’s no mistaking who’s behind the bow, when you see the grimacing, whiskered jaw and the shaggy, dirty blond hair sticking out from beneath the curled brim of a baseball hat.
Brady Ellison has been one of the most dominant Olympic recurve archers in the world over the past decade.
Hands down, he’s been the best the U.S. has had to offer.
As he prepares to represent the U.S. at a third-straight Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this summer, Ellison, 27, of Globe, Ariz., is shooting like a – well, like a champion.
Already this year, he won the Indoor Archery World Cup title in Las Vegas, a gold medal at the outdoor Medellin World Cup in Colombia and a bronze medal at the World Indoor Championships in Turkey.
He’s currently ranked second in the world by World Archery – the governing body for archery across the globe.
Ellison seems to be preparing for the Rio games with a chip on his shoulder, and that’s understandable.
Despite lofty expectations, he didn’t win an individual medal at the 2012 London Olympics, when he was ranked No. 1 in the world.
And he and fellow Americans Jake Kaminski and Jacob Wukie had to settle for a team silver medal, after narrowly missing out on the gold on the last arrow of their match with eventual winner, Italy.
LAS caught up with Ellison in May during the final stage of the U.S. Olympic Trials in Florida to talk about the London games, the upcoming games and about the overall Olympic experience.
Here’s what he had to say:
LAS: How do you mentally prepare for an event as large as the Olympics? How does that differ from other competitions?
BE: This year, I’ve been shooting in every major competition that I can to be ready. There is no practice that can simulate what an archer goes through mentally during a match with top competition. Other than the increased tournament schedule, I prepare mentally like any other international World Archery event.
LAS: What was your toughest moment of the 2012 games and why?
BE: Without a doubt, the instant that Michele Frangilli shot that last 10 to seal Italy’s gold medal win against us. It ended our dream of an Olympic Gold Medal in London.
(Watch the entire gold medal match here. The final end of that match begins at the 21-minute mark, with Frangilli releasing the winning arrow at 22:50.)
LAS: What was something that surprised you about winning a medal? Is it different being on an Olympic podium than other podiums?
BE: Yes, it’s much different from any other competition. In my opinion, an Olympic medal - especially gold - validates me as an athlete at the absolute pinnacle of his sport.
LAS: What was it like coming back home as Olympic silver medalists?
BE: It was great coming home to people who were happy and celebrating our success in bringing home Olympic silver medals for Team USA, after feeling disappointed in just missing out on the gold to Italy.
LAS: Where do you keep your medal? Do you take it out to show people?
BE: My medal is kept at various, undisclosed and secure locations as there have been Olympians who have had their medals stolen. I take it out to show people at events when they ask for me to have it available.
LAS: Track and field tends to dominate the summer Olympics. Do you feel like there was good recognition of your achievement by the U.S.?
BE: USA Archery and our Olympic archery team got great coverage and recognition leading up to and during the games. I was glad to see that for our sport. After the competition, there was much less coverage for Archery in the U.S. because the U.S. Olympic Committee focuses largely on gold medals won, with not nearly as much emphasis on silver or bronze.
LAS: For the 2016 Olympic team, is there anything that you will change from 2012 about how you compete or how you enjoy your time at the Olympics?
BE: I’ve learned to trust myself more with the additional four years of experience and confidence that it brings. I can focus more clearly now than I’ve ever been able to.
I won’t agree to every media request like I did in London, as it was really hectic and stressful. I’ll do interviews for the major outlets, and for those who I know will do a great job for our sport.
LAS: Did attending the Olympics change your view of the world?
BE: No, but it reaffirmed my faith in people. Ten thousand athletes, coaches and support people can gather in one place with a single goal of athletic competition that rises above all politics.
LAS: What are some of the perks to being an Olympic athlete?
BE: The benefits are mostly that of personal accomplishment - not financial or material things, although once I was recognized and got out of a speeding ticket.
LAS: What was it like to be surrounded by so many world-class athletes for a couple weeks?
BE: One of the Olympic experiences that will always be with me is the incredible amount of respect that all of the Olympic athletes had for each other. It didn’t matter what sport - everyone there knew that you were the best of the best in your particular sport and we all gave and got the same respect as LeBron James, or any other professional or elite athlete.
LAS: What is one piece of advice you’d give a young person who aspires to be an Olympic archer or athlete?
BE: The harder you work, the greater your success. It takes years of dedication to work harder than anyone else to become a world-class archer. Accept your bad days with a very short memory, but learn from them as you are inspired to work even harder.
Hard work can certainly be bolstered by great archery gear. Check out Brady's equipment list here.