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Brady Ellison - The Ultimate Interview!

Read about Brady's road to success here

Text and photos : Jean-Denis Gitton/FFTA
Hello, Brady – it’s nice to finally get a chance to sit down and talk with you. So before we talk about your recent successes, when did you start archery? And why?

When? Well, I’m pretty sure I have pictures of me in diapers shooting a bow! [Laughs.] No, it was when I was eight or nine. My dad got me my first compound, which was strictly just to go hunting with him. You know: Father-son time! Then I started shooting 3Ds, with my compound – and around 2000 time I really got into the competition side of things. But that’s all I did. It got to the point where I was shooting well and winning a lot of things in my state of Arizona – and I eventually qualified to go to the IBO World Championships and ASA Classic. I think that was 2001 or 2002; somewhere around there, at least. Other archers at those tournaments started telling me I needed to go to Vegas and shoot spots – but I didn’t even know what a spot target looked like! Anyway, the year after that I did go to Vegas, and I placed second in my age division. I loved the experience, though – and it directed me to start shooting local FITAs and stuff outside. I really enjoy the longer distances – and though I continued shooting 3Ds, the FITAs kind of took over because they offered the opportunity to travel internationally. In 2004 I tried out for my first junior team with my compound, and made it. After that, I was hooked. Like all I wanted to do was just go to international competitions and shoot and try to win medals. So, the next year I tried out for the Denmark indoor worlds team, and made it again – and then when we got to the shoot I won the individual, and I think we won the team, too. I shot great all that year as a junior. It was the next summer when I went to a USA Archery Camp when I picked up a recurve. My compound broke and I didn’t have anything else to shoot so someone gave me a recurve. I don’t remember what I shot with it, but it was awful. The coaches there told me I should pick up a recurve properly because I might be able to get on a national level with it. You can imagine my response; it was something like: ‘Yeah, whatever’. But I went home think about it, and eventually asked my parents: ‘What do you guys think about me switching to recurve?’ We’d spent so much money on my shooting – and my parents supported me 100 per cent – so they didn’t really want me to switch at first. I was stubborn, though – and kept at it. Finally they said yes, back in October 2005.


It only took a couple of years for you to shooting internationally with that, though! How did you break onto the scene so quickly?

As soon as I got my first recurve bow, I tried out for a competition we have between Arizona and California called ‘Duel in the Desert’ – and I won the top spot on the team. A month after that, in the Duel, I shot a 1267 or something. I definitely had 337 at 50 meters – but I didn’t think it was all that good as I was used to shooting compound, pushing 1400. A coach there – Larry Skinner, from the Olympic Training Centre – talked to me and told me to apply to become a resident at the Olympic facility. It happened to be the first year Coach Kisik Lee was coming to the US, too. There’d be a three-week trial period before residency starts – so I figured I’d talk to all my teachers, do my school over email and go to those three weeks… then just go home afterwards. But Coach Lee wanted me to stay and live there for the next year – and my parents allowed me to stick at it. So that’s when my recurve started. Completely accidentally, really. I’ve been living at the centre since 2006. I made my first senior team in 2007, the Olympics in 2008 – even though people were telling me it would take seven or so years to get to that level, so I actually had making London 2012 my goal. I was one of the youngest people to win our US open – that was back in 2006 – and from that moment on I pushed myself and worked hard… and now here I am!


That’s a long story! So you’re now a professional archer in the US?

Though some divisions in the US have professional archer cards – that’s NFAA and 3D – FITA doesn’t. Still, though, I do get paid by the US Olympic Committee to shoot, along with four other people. And sponsors do help out – that’s all contingency based, so only if I place at a tournament.


Your bow’s related to that, isn’t it? That distinctive bright-pink piece of kit!

Yeah! The pink bow was made for me by Hoyt because I decided to shoot for a cause: Curing breast cancer. Every time I placed in a tournament, I donated some of my prize money to Susan G Koman. Actually, this year I’ve started up my own foundation. I’ll do the same kind of thing, but for a variety of causes. Hopefully I can give something back to my community – as I’ve had personal experience of loss from cancer, and I know how devastating it can be to families and friends. The pink bow will still be around, as it symbolizes what I’m doing. People notice it.


How involved are you with the media in the US?

We have our national magazines for archery, but there’s not too much on the general media. Archery’s not a huge sport in the US, so the most I’ve done was at Ogden last year – as the World Cup brought some interest. A bit happened before the Games, but not all that much, really.


What about TV shows? I’ve heard some things…

Whoops, I forgot! I’ve done some TV shows, actually. It was a bit on Mythbusters and I’ve just finished shooting an episode of CSI Miami!


Woah! Really? What were you doing on that?

I was a stunt coordinator; I’ve done it a couple of times now, actually. The episode’s going to be awful, so I don’t think anyone should watch it! [Laughing.] It’s an episode about hunting humans – and, no, I wasn’t the hunter. I taught the actors how to shoot: They dry fired a bow three times and didn’t listen to anything I said, so it was pretty frustrating. I taught them safety and how someone who actually hunts does things. You won’t be able to tell, but I was a stunt double, too. The actor wasn’t comfortable climbing into tree stands, so I did that part for him. But mainly with that, and the episode I did before, I was just making sure none of the actors shot anybody on set!


That’s awesome! But we should probably talk about archery… So, training. Give me a day in your life?

Okay, on a typical day I’ll wake up at… noon… [Laughs.] No, I wish. About 8am or 8.15. Get on the field at 8.30 and shoot until my head’s woken up at noon! I’ll usually shoot a FITA or 70 meters in that time, until I get tired and want some lunch. Then I’ll eat, and come back to shoot for another couple of hours. In total, six or seven hours shooting a day – and I always score. I’ll shoot until I get frustrated, then head off to do some exercise: Mountain biking, swimming or running – though I hate running, so I don’t do that so much! Then dinner and bed!



That’s a lot of archery. Do you feel, as a young man, that you’re missing out on your young life? 

Actually, no; I don’t feel that way at all. God put me here to do what I’m doing and I’m on that path. I get to do what I love, I make a little bit of money, I get to compete. I don’t have to sit behind a desk or study for a test. I think I’m exactly where I want to be.


I’ve seen something about “1000 arrows in a day”; what is that?

It’s the dumbest thing an archer can do! [Laughs.] The last day before break at the Centre, all the resident athletes shoot a thousand arrows in a day because it takes so much out of you mentally. You learn to push yourself. But you also learn the easiest way to shoot – as those last 300 or 400 arrows are hard. Normally, especially with the younger archers, you’ll get a breakthrough to work on over the break, and come back stronger. It’s actually something I hate doing – and since I’ve done it three times, Coach Lee let me off doing it this year.


Sounds tough, so what are your strongest qualities in archery?

My mental game. I run mental programs on and off the field, and I’ve really invested in the mental management systems the Basshams have been teaching me over the last four years. That’s what makes me a strong shooter – and, of course, Coach Lee’s advice on the technical side of things. I want to do things that no one else has done before. Why can’t a recurve archer shoot 1400? Nobody thinks it’s possible, but I don’t see why. Find a calm day, shoot a good 90-metre score and then it’s just 350, 350, 360.


That’s a big goal!

It is, but it’s probably a little to do with my weakness, too. I’m extremely stubborn, and a little lazy. Maybe one day there’ll be a day when I shoot every shot the best I possibly can and some awesome, amazing thing will happen. Who knows!


And they’re your only weaknesses?

That and the fact I fiddle. I’ll have a bow shooting brilliantly, then get an idea… and more often than not, it’ll just screw everything up. But I’m getting better at leaving one bow set up as best I can, and messing around on a spare piece of kit.


You’ve been in some big competitions, and London 2012’s just around the corner. Any expectations?

Back in 2008 at the Beijing Games I tried to approach it without undue pressure. Treat it like any other tournament, but realise it’s the Olympics. I did that, and kept my composure, but my focus wasn’t in the right spot. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you where my focus was then – and that’s a problem. But in 2012, I know where my focus needs to be. I want to bring back a gold medal. Especially individually – but team, too. I’ve got to train harder, and be better than everyone else. Throughout all my matches in London, I hope to shoot perfectly – so there’s absolutely no question as to who deserves to win the tournament. None of this ‘come from behind’ stuff I’ve been specialising in this past year!


There are no negative thoughts there! No doubts?

I have doubts sometimes, but it’s mostly me getting frustrated with an off day. I do have frustration problems. But I try to look at everything in a positive light.


Is it not hard to think of yourself being ranked so highly in the world?

I let the pressure not be there, I guess. I don’t feel any different. Why put extra pressure on yourself when it’s not going to help? I can only control what I do.


And what do you do? How would you describe your shooting style?

Aggressive! I will take a risk every time. Even if I’m ahead in the match, and only need an eight or nine, I’ll go for a 10.


Is there any particular part of your form you focus on?

No, actually. I’m aware of my body and what I do with it, but it all happens at once. I just try and replicate the same feeling every time. Sometimes it looks the same, sometimes it doesn’t – but as long as I have the same feeling I’m confident the arrow’s going to go into the same spot. In a tournament I try to be more aggressive than in practice, and try and keep my timing better. Or at least that’s what I tell everyone; I don’t do it myself half of the time. [Laughs.]


Good advice! Anything else you’d say to an up-and-coming archer?

Archery is a sport you can do forever, until you’re 80, 90 plus years old. It’s a beautiful sport, in terms of the way our bodies work with the bow in our hands. If you have a bad day, you have a bad day – and don’t worry about it. Stick with it. And the longer you shoot, the better you get. Just have fun!


Text and photos : Jean-Denis Gitton/FFTA

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