#Tokyo10: Brady Ellison and his best chance at an Olympic title

#Tokyo10: Brady Ellison.

#Tokyo10 profiles 10 archers poised to make an impact at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

  • Name: Brady Ellison, recurve man from the United States. 
  • Age: 32
  • World ranking: 1
  • Olympic experience: 2016 (individual bronze, team silver medals), 2012 (team silver medal), 2008

The most dominant archer in 2019 – one of the best individual stretches in the history of the sport, and the last pre-pandemic season – Brady Ellison has perhaps the strongest claim as the favourite to win in Tokyo.

The USA archer won the Hyundai World Archery Championships, the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final for a record-setting fifth time, broke the 72-arrow 70-metre qualifying world record with 702 points and returned to the number one spot in the world rankings, which he still holds.

Will these be the Games where his unimpeachable resume translates into Olympic gold?

Brady Ellison shoots at stage three of the 2021 Hyundai Archery World Cup in Paris.

Reasons for hope

Tokyo may be Ellison’s fourth Olympics and he might always have been viewed as one of the favourites for the men’s title – but, following that ridiculous season in 2019, this time feels different. If he took the title, he would be the USA’s first Olympic Champion since Justin Huish, 25 years ago. It would also seal his reputation as one of the greatest archers of all time.

While Ellison has never really fallen far from the top rungs, winning 100s of national and international medals since his recurve career started in 2007, the past decade has seen some up and down years. Injury and form issues came and went.

All that changed in 2019, when he suddenly hit a streak of form that surpassed even the halcyon days of the early 2010s, when he dominated the Hyundai Archery World Cup circuit.

It was glorious to watch.

Ellison radiated control, energy and confidence. No one could get past him. It culminated in a fully deserved World Archery Champion title in Den Bosch, followed by yet another Hyundai Archery World Cup Final win. The last shot of the gold medal match at the worlds embody what is different about Brady’s level – and current ability to deliver under pressure.

Sure, this phenomenal season is now 18 months old.

Brady’s been winning in 2021, too, though at international events without major contenders from the Asian nations. He took back-to-back wins at the second and third stage of the Hyundai Archery World Cup in Lausanne and Paris.

The level is certainly there.

And while there are dozens of other big-stage achievements we could list to fill out these paragraphs and make his case, there is, more importantly, essentially only one medal missing from his cabinet: Olympic gold – and he has never seemed more likely to come home with it.

Two of Ellison’s Olympic medals have come in the men’s team event.

This time around, the USA’s men left booking their ticket until the very last minute, taking their quota at the final qualifier in Paris. In the end, the team of Ellison, Jacob Wukie and Jack Williams performed at the highest level at that final showdown. If they maintain the sort of form they showed in the French capital, they may well be looking at another podium – just as they did in 2012 and 2016.

The United Celebrates at the final Olympic qualifier in Paris.

Reasons for concern

Not many. Of course, Ellison has not been tested outdoors against the top Asian men since 2019. He’s beaten enough Koreans over the years not to fear any match-up, but we still don’t know what they will bring to the party. As he found out in Guatemala City, it only takes one so-so match to sink the boat.

Path to victory

High scoring, unshakeable confidence and a dominant presence; it at least appears that Ellison, now a family man, has developed a mastery of the competitive side of the sport. He will need to calmly bring it all to the stage in Yumenoshima Park. As Simon Fairweather, the 2000 Olympic Champion said of taking gold: “Finals are like a staring competition. That day, I was the one who didn’t blink.”

On current form, it’s easy to see Ellison not blinking either.

Did you know?

Brady is the only archer in modern Olympic history to have won three medals without taking a gold.

He currently sits 53rd on the all-time medal table at the Games. A gold medal in Tokyo would vault him to 16th; two gold medals would push him to fifth – and three (available for the first time with the addition of the mixed event) would put him second.

Header artwork by Eduardo Batán Molina.