Brady Ellison competes at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on July 31, 2020 in Tokyo.
TOKYO – Brady Ellison woke up on the final day of the Olympic archery competition to video of his 8-month-old son, Ty, crawling for the first time.
“That’s super cool and I’m proud of him,” Ellison said. “He’s been scooting backwards for a couple of days, but now he’s going forward.”
The proud dad hoped to go forward, too, Saturday — right through the bracket in the men’s individual competition. While Ty was chasing a jar on a mat, Ellison was chasing the individual gold medal in his fourth straight Olympic Games.
Unfortunately, the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist was stopped in the quarterfinal round, losing 7-3 to Mete Gazoz of Turkey, who had beaten him in their two previous matches at world cups in Berlin in 2018 and 2019.
Gazoz went on to win the Olympic gold medal, defeating Mauro Nespoli of Italy 6-4, while Japan’s Takaharu Furukawa won the bronze with a 7-3 win over Chih-Chun Tang of Chinese Taipei.
Ellison, 32, of Globe, Arizona, ended up seventh on a hot, humid day at Yumenoshima Park Archery Field.
“I still felt like I shot really good in there,” Ellison said. “I’m actually not that upset. I just misjudged the wind on a couple and that was it.”
As the No. 1 ranked archer in the world, reigning world champion, world record holder, and winner of two world cups this year, Ellison naturally went into the Olympic tournament as the favorite.
He was second after the ranking round to Je Deok Kim of Korea, who was eliminated early.
“I wanted to come out and win today, but I wasn’t nervous out there really,” Ellison said. “I felt calm; I wasn’t amped up and super filled with adrenaline, which is a little bit different, but just kind of the way I was today - good or bad.”
As soon as he stepped to the shooting line, with the target 70 meters away, Ellison shot an 8. Even the announcer sounded surprised. Gazoz, ranked No. 4 in the world, answered with a 9. Both shot two nines to close out the set, giving Gazoz a 2-0 edge.
They split the next set, with Ellison shooting an 8 in between two 10s, then Ellison opened the third set with a pair of 10s. Even though he faltered with an 8, Gazoz – who opened with a 9 and a 10, also shot an 8, tying the match at 3-3.
“I knew he was going to be tough and by that time, I kind of knew where to aim,” Ellison said. “It’s in the next set where I made my mistake.”
He held one arrow little bit long, fired it and hit an eight on the right side. “I thought that the wind had changed,” Ellison said, “And then the next one, I aimed in the middle and I shot left eight. I should have kept aiming in that same spot, and then that would have been the difference in the match probably.”
Besides the two 8s, he added a 10 while Gazoz won the end with three 9s for a 5-3 lead.
In the final set, Ellison shot a dead-center bulls-eye, then a 9 and another 10, but the Turkish archer was perfect with 10s across the board to win.
Ellison won silver medals in the men’s team events in 2012 and 2016 as well as that individual bronze in Rio.
He has earned every honor in his sport except Olympic champion, which he said is all that matters to some people. He said they have the attitude “that’s when you make your ticket,” and are stamped “as a legend.”
“I’ve won everything, but you still need this one,” he said, “I just want a gold medal. I don’t care where it comes from. Team, mixed team, individual, I just want one. I have two silvers and a bronze. If I get a gold I get a complete set and that would be pretty cool… at some point in time.”
Ellison and Mackenzie Brown lost in the 1/8 eliminations in the mixed team event, and Team USA lost in the quarterfinals in the men’s and women’s team events.
“I was more shocked after that,” Ellison said of the men’s loss. “One, we didn’t make it, but two, how bad I shot, where my arrows hit were just bad.”
He made an adjustment to his finger tab, and said that Butch Johnson, an Olympic gold and bronze medalist in the team event, texted him with some advice. But it wasn’t enough.
Ellison’s loss in the final competition meant Team USA was shut out of the medals for the first time since 2008, his first Olympics.
“We didn’t perform as how we were expected,” Ellison said.
Brown was fourth in the women’s individual event for the best Team USA finish.
“My heart goes out to her,” Ellison said, “because in all honesty - I told her yesterday - she shot in the gold medal match and doesn’t have a medal to show for it.”
Brown lost to eventual gold medalist An San of Korea in the semifinal in a shoot off.
Ellison called it “the best that the women saw in the entire competition. It was awesome to watch, she hung with her, she didn’t give an inch. She missed one judged call by a millimeter that would have won her the match that last end… Fourth place is really bittersweet.”
Brown, who also competed in 2016 in Rio, was proud of her performance.
“I was within such a hair’s width away from winning,” Brown said. “ I never lost focus on any sets and don’t think I gave up at any point. I made good shots.”
In the men’s event, Team USA was guaranteed a quarterfinalist when Ellison met Jacob Wukie, his teammate and roommate, in the 1/8 elimination round of the bracket.
“We’ve been joking around since team rounds that we’re now mortal enemies,” Ellison said. “We put the tape line down the center of our room, trying to buy each other off, or say we want to invoke full contact if someone shoots an 8.
“We actually asked out there, and (the official) says we weren’t allowed to tackle each other at full draw even if we had an agreement to.”
They said they never considered not being roommates on the eve of their match. “I think Jacob and I are both too lazy to grab all of our stuff to move to a different room,” he said, “and we’d finally come to a compromise like an old married couple on where the room temperature should be.”
That was a chilly 64 degrees.
As they met on the field, their uniforms were the same except they wore different baseball caps. Neither had a coach behind them, “so there’s no favoritism,” said Ellison. “We go and duke it out for ourselves.”
Ellison won 7-3 and now has a lifetime record of 4-0 vs. Wukie going back to 2011. Wukie retired in 2012 after winning an Olympic silver medal alongside Ellison, but came back for another shot.
“I’m thrilled to be here,” said Wukie, who also works a full-time job and has a family with three daughters. “It’s not just coming out of retirement, training and competing again, but it’s trying to shoot at a level that I haven’t shot at for 10 years.”
Ellison said he felt a little flat during the match “because I like Wukie,” but the “survival thing” kicked in.
“I feel like when you’re one of the top-ranked guys in the world, losing the first day is like shame,” Ellison said, “like someone ringing a bell behind you ‘Upset! Upset.’ I’ve been there twice.”
He shot a 30 in the last set to clinch.
“Overall, I shot good, he shot better,” Wukie said. “As a friend and competitor… just a lot of respect for him and excited to be able to watch him and continue cheering him on.”
Ellison then had about four hours to regroup. “I am so wet, I am so sticky,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I could start my own Ellison Organic Salt Factory in this place.”
Despite his loss, he hopes to someday show YouTube video of his Olympic performances to Ty “when he gets interested in what dad did back in the day.”
He has plans to continue competing through the 2024 Paris and 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games.
In his immediate future, Ellison will rejoin his family in Montana, where he will do some hunting and shoot in some tournaments. He will then compete at nationals and worlds later this year.
Ellison’s wife, Toja, who is also an elite archer, has been in her native Slovenia since May and they only saw each other at world cups.
“I get to go home to them and do all that fun dad stuff that I’ve been missing out on for the last month,” Ellison said. “Now that Ty’s mobile, I think life just got a whole lot harder.”