One great thing about the Summer Olympics is the exposure of lesser known sports. It’s particularly easy to get caught up in the action when a participant is as exciting to watch as Brady Ellison, who is the highest ranked recurve archer in the world.
The 24-year-old Glendale, Arizona native grew up in a family of outdoor enthusiasts and feels like he’s always had a bow in his hand. His dad, Alfred Ellison, gave him a toy bow and arrows set around the age of two and he instantly fell in love with the sport.
His real passion for competitive archery can be traced back to a 2003 tournament in Colorado. He noticed other competitors wearing shirts with “USA” emblazoned on them. He asked his mother what that meant, and why some of the other kids were wearing them. She made an inquiry and quickly discovered those competitors were among the best in the country and had made the world archery team. Brady told his mom, “I think I want one of those.”
So convinced he could become one of the best archers in the world—if not the best—within one year of the Colorado event Ellison was on the U.S. Junior World Team. However, he had a decision to make at that time, and it was an important one: Stay in school or become a resident athlete at the Olympic training center.
Ellison also had to make the switch from the compound bow he had been using to the less-precise recurve bows used in Olympic competition. Ultimate, he made the chose to train full time on recurve bows.
“It just felt right to be out here shooting my bow all day long,” he said. “This was going to be my dream, this was going to be my job, this is what I was going to do the rest of my life.”
At age 19, just a handful of years after the event in Colorado, Ellison had qualified for the 2008 Olympic Team. He didn’t have a great showing at the Beijing Olympics, not advancing to the medal rounds in any of the individual or team competitions. The disappointing effort only served to motivate him to win gold in 2012.
Since the Beijing Olympics, Ellison has attained the lofty position as the number one recurve archer in the world, winning 35 of 37 world events he entered in 2011.
“I would like to be the person who can put our sport on the map.”
There’s a very good chance of this happening as all eyes will be on this humble, down to earth athlete who only has his sights set on becoming the greatest archer in history.