Brady Ellison has won virtually 'everything' in archery except Olympic gold

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United States' Brady Ellison shoots an arrow during his men's individual.
U.S. archer Brady Ellison shoots during individual eliminations Saturday. Two errant shots in a quarterfinal match ended his medal hopes for the Tokyo Olympics. (Alessandra Tarantino / Associated Press)

The Tokyo Olympic archery venue was built on the site of a landfill wedged between the bay and the heart of the city. To enter, you must pass through the Mosquito Repellent Spot, tolerate the buzzing of a thousand cicadas and endure humid, steamy conditions more appropriate to the Amazon than central Japan.

All of which make its name, Yumenoshima Park, curious. In English, it translates as Dream Island. For American Brady Ellison, however, the Olympics were once again his nightmare.

The world’s top-ranked archer since 2019 and reigning world champion lost to Turkey’s Mete Gazoz in a quarterfinal match Saturday that turned on two errant shots in the fourth set, continuing a troubled history that has seen Ellison take home just one individual bronze medal from four Olympics.

Gazoz, 22, went on to win the gold medal.

“The Olympics is the biggest [event] that we shoot. It’s just harder to win the Olympics,” he said. “There’s a lot of Americans back home that say I’m not [expletive] really until you win a Games.

“That’s when you make your ticket. That’s when you really stamp your thing as a legend. I’ve won everything, but you still need this one.”

Instead, he hasn’t even won an Olympic semifinal. But if coming up short again troubled him, Ellison didn’t show it, bragging after his match about his son Ty crawling for the first time, chatting about the recent fires and flooding near his home in central Arizona, and discussing a post-Games hunting trip in Montana.

“I shot really good in there. And I'm actually not that upset,” he said. “I just misjudged the wind on a couple and that was it.”

“He shot well. He did beat me,” he added. “But I don't feel like I was outshot.”

U.S. archer Brady Ellison takes a shot at the Tokyo Olympics.
Brady Ellison's Olympic-rings tattoo is visible on his forearm during an archery competition. (Alessandra Tarantino / Associated Press)

For stretches of his career Ellison, 32, has been the greatest archer on the planet, if not in history. He won 13 world championships and a record six individual World Cups — so many rivals began calling him “the prospector” because he was so good at finding gold.

But Ellison didn’t have the World Cup or world championship logos tattooed on the outside of his forearm, where they would be clearly visible when he draws back his bow. That tattoo is of the Olympic rings.

“At the end of the day the Olympics are huge,” he said. “It's the only time where I get to talk to media for three hours after an event that you lose. So all that's super cool.

“You know, I do this professionally. I do this to make money. This is the biggest-paying event. I lost a lot of money here by not getting on the podiums.”

Ellison received his first bow as a gift at age 7 and bagged a bear while bow hunting four years later. When he was young he also suffered from Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease, a childhood hip disorder that required him to wear leg braces.

His first major international medal was a gold in the team competition at the 2007 Pan American Games. He’s also won two Olympic silver medals in team events to go with his individual bronze.

“I just want a gold medal,” he said. “I don't care where it comes from. Team rounds, mixed team, individual. I just want one. Two silvers and a bronze so if I get gold, I get a complete set. That would be pretty cool.”

His quest for gold in Tokyo was derailed in the fourth set of his quarterfinal with Gazoz. After he and Gazoz split two of the first three sets and tied in the other, Ellison hit a right 8 and a left 8 with his first two arrows. Gazoz responded with a pair of 9s.

“I just made one bad shot. That was the right 8, and then I made a mistake of thinking that it should have flight drifted,” he said. “I aimed my next one in the middle and shot a left 8. If I would have just aimed in that same place, not thinking the wind was different, it would have been a different match.”

Now he has to wait three years for another chance.

“I have plans until 2028, to stay in it until then,” he said. “So knock on wood, yes. I'll be back in Paris.”

“On something like this,” he continued of his Tokyo loss, “you can't really think about it forever, or dwell on it. The next focus automatically is the next shoot, which is nationals. Get ready for that, try to win that.”

In three years he’ll be saying that about the Olympics. Again.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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