|Brady Ellison competes in the World Cup Final on Sept. 7, 2014 in Lausanne, Switzerland.|
It’s not that Brady Ellison had disappeared.
Far from it. For the past couple of years America’s No. 1 recurve archer has consistently ranked among the top five to eight in the world and has come painfully close to winning some big events.
Ellison earned team silver at the London 2012 Olympic Games, yet ever since coming up short of great expectations in the individual competition, Ellison — still just 25—wasn’t the dominant archer he’d been previously when he ranked No. 1 in the world for nearly two years, starting in 2011.
Ellison won the World Cup Final in 2010 and 2011, but finished second in 2012 and third in 2013. And in the world cup individual stage competitions held across the globe this year, Ellison missed the podium entirely.
So when Ellison won the individual recurve World Cup Final in Lausanne, Switzerland, Sunday (Sept. 7) it was especially sweet.
After winning a one-arrow shoot-off with Brazil’s Marcus D’Almeida in the final, Ellison pumped his fist and let out a howl. He then told a reporter that the victory was a reminder to the rest of the archery world “that I’m still around and still a threat.”
A few days later, back at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, Ellison was still pumped about the significance of the win.
“I was still finishing top eight, but I wasn’t winning everything and being so dominant and so I was just ...I don’t know, I just had to remind everyone that I’m still here, don’t forget about me and that I am still someone that you don’t want on your side of the bracket,” he said.
Ellison’s consistency has been remarkable. He’s now been to an unprecedented five straight World Cup Finals and has medaled in each. But over the past couple of years there have been times when he’s been in position to win, yet hasn’t. Winning this third World Cup Final title — becoming the first archer to do that, recurve or compound — gets Ellison back to the top and gives him some momentum going into 2015, a big pre-Olympic year.
“I just wasn’t, always (winning),” said Ellison of the past couple of years. “I shot good and someone shot better, or I gave a match away at the right time. Just always finishing in the top eight but not being on the podium. So not necessarily bad, but not on the podium.”
In Switzerland, however, Ellison came up with the big shots when he needed them.
In his opening match against defending World Cup Final and Olympic champion Oh Jin Hyek of South Korea, Ellison won a shoot-off, hitting a 10 on his one do-or-die shot to advance. Ellison, now ranked sixth in the world, then defeated this year’s World Indoor Championships winner, Rick Van Der Ven of the Netherlands, to get to the final against D’Almeida.
In that match, the score was even to set up another shoot-off. Both archers shot 9s, but Ellison’s arrow was closer to the center to give him the win.
“I was just shooting good, on top of my game and I had decided that no one was going to beat me. That was just how it was going to be,” said Ellison, laughing.
The World Cup Final victory caps what Ellison calls an overall good year. Though he fell short of the podium in the world cup stage events, he was third at the Indoor World Championships in France, was first at the Pan American Olympic Festival in Mexico and won gold at the World Field Championships at Zagreb, Croatia, in late August, just before completing a six-week schedule in Europe with the World Cup Final.
Ellison says that victory in Croatia was a nice lead-in to the Word Cup Final.
“I won the World Field Championships … and I was like, ‘All right, I’m a world champion now. Why don’t we go out there and continue this at the World Cup Final and show that I just didn’t get off for one weekend at the world championship,’” he said. “I am back to where I was.”
Ellison still has a couple of events to go this year, but the biggest competitions of 2014 are now out of the way. He says the World Cup Final is a great springboard into 2015, a big year that will include the Pan American Games and the world championships that will determine qualifiers for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016.
Ellison, who was 17th at the London Games in 2012 and 27th at his first Games in Beijing in 2008, says it now feels like the Rio Games are “right around the corner.”
But winning a World Cup Final or advancing up the world rankings or anything else on Ellison’s long, successful resume doesn’t guarantee a thing for Rio.
Each year, the field of archers gets stronger and deeper and everyone’s scores continue to climb. Staying at the same level doesn’t cut it. Everyone, Ellison included, must continue to improve or get passed.
Ellison says “the world is just getting better.”
“Everyone’s scores are going up, and my scores are too,” he said. “It’s just getting tighter and tougher.”
Doug Williams covered three Olympic Games for two Southern California newspapers and was the Olympic editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has written for TeamUSA.org since 2011 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.