Going for Gold: Interview with US Archer Brady Ellison

Aiming for the top medal next year, the athlete also wants to make a big impact in the sport of archery

Since his Olympic debut in Beijing, Brady Ellison has become a fixture in the Olympic circuit – winning two team silver medals and an individual bronze medal in London 2012 and Rio 2016.

Laser-focused and on top of his game, the three-time Olympian has set his sights on a new target – winning gold in Tokyo 2020.

In this interview, Brady talks about his ultimate goal for next year’s Games and why he thinks archery is a 100 per cent mental sport.

Brady Ellison at the Ready Steady Tokyo Archery Test Event in Yumenoshima Park Archery Field 
Brady Ellison at the Ready Steady Tokyo Archery Test Event in Yumenoshima Park Archery Field Brady Ellison at the Ready Steady Tokyo Archery Test Event in Yumenoshima Park Archery Field 

1. How do you feel about being here in Tokyo and being part of this READY STEADY TOKYO Archery Test event?

I really enjoy Tokyo and it’s been a long time since I’ve been in the city. I really like coming to the READY STEADY TOKYO Test Event because it gives us a feel for the field and what we are going to experience next year. It puts you in that mind-set and gives us an idea of what we are going to do next year.

We get to shoot on the qualification field and then run the finals. It’s a good practice-run not only for the organisation but for the archers as well so that we can imagine in our mind what’s going to happen next year.

 Ready Steady Tokyo Archery Test Event
 Ready Steady Tokyo Archery Test Event Ready Steady Tokyo Archery Test Event

2. Archery takes a lot of mental skill and concentration to shoot arrows and targets from a distance.

Mentally, archery is a unique sport. It is a body-control sport. And to be able to control your body to make the same shot every time means you have to control your mind. That’s one of the biggest things about this sport: Archery is 100 per cent mental.

3. How do you train yourself to be in that zone every time you perform?

There are tons of different things that I do: there’s probably 10 hours a day that I put into mental work. I do it when I am shooting and also when I am off the field using imagery and rehearsal shots – stuff that’s all inside your head. When you’re in a tournament, you need to stay focused and control what you can control and not let outside things like the wind, or the rain, and other things influence you mentally.

Men's Qualification Round
Men's Qualification RoundMen's Qualification Round

4.   If there is a mantra or words you live by, what is it? And explain how you used that in your professional athletic career.

Words that I live by are probably the ones that are on my wrist. Keep driving – it means never give up. Always keep pushing. Always go to your 100 per cent potential and always push the boundaries. Never be content with where you are and always try to push forward.

5. What is the best part about competing?

The best part about it is being able to compete at a very high-level – pitting yourself against people and in a shoot – is trying to control what you can and trying to beat the other guys. Ultimately it's staying in control of yourself. You cannot only be a more controlled person in sport but equally learn from sport and apply that in life.

"Never be content with where you are and always try to push forward." - Brady Ellison

6. What was your reason for starting archery? What attracted you to archery in the first place?

Originally, I learned archery to hunt. It was one of the ways that my family got food. And that’s how I got into the sport of archery. First, I went from shooting 3D Archery then in 2006. I then switched into an Olympic-style recurve sport and afterwards started pursuing Olympics.

Arrows embedded on Archery Target Boards 
Arrows embedded on Archery Target Boards Arrows embedded on Archery Target Boards 

7.   Who did you look up to when you were starting out in your athletic career and how did they help you to get to where you are today?

There are a couple of people that I looked up to. One was a bull rider with the name of Lane Frost. I looked up to him because he was ahead of the curve in bull riding. With the way he rode, he changed the sport. Another one is five-time Olympian Butch Johnson from the USA. He really helped me out a lot when I was little. I always looked up to him because he would go out of his way to help people.

Another one of the greats growing up was Tiger Woods. Watching someone being able to play like that on the field of sport is huge and like him, I really want to be able to dominate and win. Personal-life aside, as an athlete, he’s still one of my idols today. He dominated for so long and came back injury after injury and then won another Majors. I think he is really incredible.

8. Could you talk to me about the first time you’ve won an Olympic medal – what was that feeling like? How did your life change after winning?

In 2012, I won my first silver team medal in my second Olympic Games. It was really incredible to go through that experience. I’m now an Olympic medalist – and no one can take that away from you.

Going into Rio 2016, I really felt that I could win it. I ended up winning a team silver again which was really good and it was a completely different experience because I felt like in 2012 we should have won gold and we just missed. We went out there and were good enough to win silver.

With the bronze medal – at first I was really upset about it because I really thought that I should have been in the gold medal match. But looking back, it’s another Olympic medal. It’s a great accomplishment. I’m super happy that I was able to go out there and shoot well enough to win a bronze medal. And now going into 2020, I am really hoping for that gold.

US Archer Brady Ellison looks ahead after a shot
US Archer Brady Ellison looks ahead after a shotUS Archer Brady Ellison looks ahead after a shot

9.   What do you hope for archery as a sport?

I really hope for archery to be one day recognised as a true professional sport where athletes can get prize money and join competitions up to a level where people can make a living out of it. Most of the people in the field still have jobs and still shoot part-time. It’s still almost a hobby. For most of the world, you can’t make a living and shoot archery unless you are one of the best in the world.

I would really like archery to grow enough and become of those internationally and professional sports that people can make a living out of – like these World cups that you can turn as a career and job. My biggest goal for the sport of archery is that people can make a living doing it.

10. Any message for your fans?

To all the fans out there, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the support you’ve given me through all the years. It really means a lot that you guys come out to these finals and you guys cheer me on, with the comments you make on social media. It really helps on the hard days. I really appreciate it. Keep being amazing fans! Hopefully I get to keep being in the finals and you guys can watch me.

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