American archer Brady Ellison, 27, took bronze in archery’s individual competition at the Olympics last week. After shooting over 150 arrows while pitted against his two teammates, Jake Kaminski and Zach Garrett, Ellison was the sole American left for a chance at the podium. After defeating 2012 individual silver medalist Takaharu Furukawa from Japan in the fifth round, Ellison narrowly lost a heart-stopping semifinal match against Korean archer Ku Bonchan, which came down to one shoot-off arrow. Which sent him to the bronze-medal match.
What makes this medalist tick? What set the nation abuzz over this Western wonder and his archery achievements? Let’s find out.
1. Early Beginnings
Who doesn’t love kid pictures? Well, here’s one that shows our favorite archer as a tyke. The first bow Brady shot in competition was a compound at age 7. He switched to the Olympic recurve in 2006 at 18. Under the tutelage of national head coach Kisik Lee, Brady qualified for the 2008 Olympic archery team that went to Beijing. This “little guy” has gone so far!
Many up-and-comers have similar start-up stories in which their archery passion started at a young age. Courage and self-discipline then helped them achieve their youthful dreams. Plus, those beginning photos look so darned adorable!
2. The Comeback Kid
We all love an athlete’s comeback story. It fuels our belief that we, too, can achieve greatness. In 2012, for example, Ellison’s Olympic medal hopes died in the second round against Australian archer Taylor Worth. That loss hurt the young gun, who had won the 2011 World Cup Final in Istanbul, Turkey, as well as numerous World Cup individual titles from 2010 to 2012. That loss in London fueled Brady’s fire even more the next four years. He trained harder than ever and mentally prepared for the event that would make his career complete. In an article by Team USA, he put it this way: “I’ve medaled at everything now.”
His accomplishment in Rio is even more amazing when considering the last American archer to win an individual medal was Vic Wunderle and his silver at the 2000 Athens Olympics. We all applaud you, Brady!
3. The Wave and the Roar
Most gifted athletes have little quirks that become part of their identity. Ellison is no exception. Whenever this guy struts up to the line as his name is called, he gives his salutary wave. Taking a cue from the late bull rider Lane Frost, Ellison uses his idol’s double-wrist wave to acknowledge his rooting fans.
His second renowned quirk is his famous “roar,” which happens when Ellison finishes a match. He turns and grips his bow with furious emotion and gives a mighty yell to show the crowd who’s boss. We want Brady in our corner. He can yell for us anytime!
4. The Lone Ranger
Ellison strikes a defining stand-alone look among his fellow archers while standing on the line. Whether indoors or outdoors, he pulls off that rugged-cowboy stance. During indoor season you can usually see him sporting his iconic cowboy boots, which he says make him feel much more comfortable when shooting.
Anytime he’s at the line you’ll also see the belt buckles he shows off on his quiver belt. On his Twitter page he describes himself as “just a country boy who loves to shoot his bow.” He does exactly that with his “Remembering Lane Frost” belt buckle, which brings him luck as he competes for the podium.
5. Sorry Girls, he’s Taken!
Brady tied the knot with Toja Cerne of Slovenia, a fellow competitive compound shooter, in June. The two are often seen together at World Cup events each year, both representing their countries while supporting each other. How cute!
6. Look out, Leo!
We still can’t decide whether archery’s boy wonder is the stand-in double for Leonardo DiCaprio, or the other way around. Similar to the striped-dress confusion that took the Twittersphere by storm in February 2015, we must decide whether it’s individual perceptions or an awesome coincidence. Either way, we agree that Leo can play the lead role for any Brady Ellison films that make the big screen. That would be fabulous!
7. Olympic Ink
What’s not to love about a guy with ink! Ellison chose the Olympic rings with “Beijing 2008” for his debut tattoo. Since then he has added “London 2012” and a broadhead tip. We haven’t heard what he plans to do for Rio, but we’re sure it will be great!
8. What Inspires our Hero?
Video Credit: Jeff Metcalfe
It’s obvious he can be proclaimed as the best U.S. archer of all time, but who inspires him? Where does he look for guidance? We easily hear the explanation straight from the man himself, and it makes us want to root for him even more. His explanation of his wrist tattoos moves us to get out there and “keep on” as well.
9. Brady Gives Back
Credit: USA Archery Facebook
Ellison recently presented his “Order of Ikkos” – the award that symbolizes who helped that Olympian’s journey to the podium – to Butch Johnson. A five-time archery Olympian and medalist as well, Johnson took young Brady under his wing and taught him everything he could about bow tuning, shooting under pressure, and other firsthand advice. What a great honor. It brings a tear to our eye!
What’s Next for the Bronze Medal Cowboy?
Brady looks forward to what archery will bring him, and we hope he goes for gold in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics!