5 things we learned from the ‘Brady Ellison: Believe’ documentary

We've admired his journey, praised his dominance and marvelled at his scores. But there’s a lot we didn't know about Brady Ellison – until now. 

Thanks to Believe: Brady Ellison, a feature-length documentary that premiered on Saturday, archery fans received a rare glimpse into the life behind the number-one-ranked recurve man in the world: his resilience, his ambition and his dedication to winning ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Among the many new things we learned, here are five takeaways from the new film from World Archery.

1. He’s just as intense as you think he is. 

One of the most demonstrative shooters on the international circuit, often punctuating victories with a fist pump and a roar, Ellison speaks with a level of passion that is indicative of his rise to the top of the sport.

The film opens with the three-time Olympic medallist explaining his mentality toward winning, establishing early his dedication to the craft. 

“Archery is not just sport for me. Archery is truly my life,” Ellison says. “Everything that I do is with a bow. I have to win several Olympics. I have to win several world championships. I have to win everything, all of the time, for an extended amount of time. I have to do things above and beyond what anyone thought was possible with a bow to try to leave my legacy.”

2. Recurve wasn’t his first love.

Ellison’s father bought him his first bow when he was six years old and had supplied him with toy versions years before that. Small-town hunting quickly evolved into shooting at local tournaments with a compound. One day at a training camp, his string broke, opening the door for him to try recurve.

He took to it immediately.

“By the end of the camp, all of the coaches were like, ‘you need to switch’,” Ellison says. 

Even then, his potential as a future Olympian was evident.  

“I was like, okay, cool: Olympics,” Ellison recalled. “I didn’t even know that was a thing for archery. Let’s go do it. So I went home, and I told my mom and step day, ‘hey, look, I want to go make the Olympic team, I’m switching to recurve’.”

3. He nearly walked away from the sport due to injury.

Shortly after overcoming knee problems to capture individual bronze at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, a pesky finger injury threatened to end Ellison’s career. What started as nerve pain and blisters persisted through all of 2017 and intensified in 2018, radiating from his fingertips through his arm. A procession of tests and consultations pointed him in the direction of early retirement.

“All of them just told me to quit shooting,” Ellison said of his doctors.

His wife, fellow archer Toja Ellison, arranged for Brady to meet with a bioenergetist in her native Slovenia. Also referred to as a healer, the man put Ellison through a series of tests and offered guidance on how to remedy the problem. Three days after his experimental treatment, Ellison shot off more arrows in a single day than he had in three years.

The next year, in 2019, Ellison compiled arguably the greatest individual season in the history of the sport.

“It’s ridiculous,” he says. “He just healed me. Literally, with his body energy, healed me. That’s pretty much the most blunt way to put it.”

4. He cares about winning Olympic gold.

The Olympics matter to Ellison, who made the pinnacle of the sport his goal as soon as it became a reality.

“It’s hard when one tournament defines your whole entire life,” he said during the pandemic, which postponed the Games for a year. “I think I had really good chances this year. I was shooting pretty damn good leading up to this. But I think there is no limit to how high we can reach when you’re pushed into a corner.”

Ellison is hoping his fourth attempt at the elusive prize proves the most rewarding. Archery’s winningest international competitor since 2010, the table is set for him to carry the success of 2019 through the pandemic and finally translate his career success into Olympic gold. 

“I don't think you can be considered the best ever if you don’t win an Olympics,” he says.

5. He’s just getting started.

“If I win the 2020 Olympics, I’ll have won everything that I can win,” Ellison says. “I’ve already medalled multiple times at everything I can medal in. If I win that gold in Tokyo, I will have won it all. And I want that.”

Still, Ellison remains as hungry as ever. The reigning World Archery Champion sees himself competing through the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, if not longer. His quest to be the best archer this sport has ever seen continues to fuel him.

“I really want to win more in my 30s than I did in my 20s,” he says.  

Watch the documentary for free on YouTube.