Shooting star: Archer Brady Ellison aims at Tokyo gold with arm pain gone

Brady Ellison
AP
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In between remodeling his archery workshop and raising piglets, Brady Ellison shoots about 100 arrows a day on his custom-built range.

That’s not very high volume for him. He’s scaled way back with the coronavirus pandemic postponing the Tokyo Games until next summer and his season on hold.

This is the promising part: No shooting pain.

A little while back, the three-time Olympic medalist felt searing discomfort through his right arm whenever he released an arrow.

Doctors couldn’t solve it. He couldn’t shoot through it. He nearly quit and went to work at a local copper mine in Arizona.

Now gold in Tokyo is back in the picture.

His comeback will be highlighted in an upcoming documentary and features a Hollywood-esque twist: A natural healer in Slovenia helped alleviate his pain to the point where he became the world champion.

“I went from looking for jobs and quitting archery to believing I’m going to win in Tokyo,” the 31-year-old Ellison said in a phone interview from his six-acre property in Globe, Arizona, where he’s waiting for the season to resume. “I now have more drive than I’ve ever had.”

Usually around this time of year, Ellison is shooting 300 arrows each day on a range he built with a tractor and features 50- and 70-meter targets.

Instead, he’s scaled back the shooting and is taking care of house projects. He rebuilt the wood floor in his workshop, which also serves as his indoor facility. It’s actually two sheds pushed close together in which he simply opens the doors to both in order to shoot.

He’s also tending to a litter of piglets and squeezing in some bow fishing.

Anything to pass the time until competitions start back up. He’s not feeling the crunch even though he relies on events for about 70% of his income. Over the years, he’s been financially savvy with his earnings.

“I’ve always said that if I get hurt or anything, I want to still be able to pay all my bills and lose nothing if I have to go get a job at McDonald’s,” he said.

Ellison sees himself competing through the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, if not longer.

Especially now, with his arm back to feeling better.

Shortly after capturing an Olympic bronze medal in the individual event at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, along with silver during the team competition, Ellison began experiencing pain in one of his fingers.

Steadily, it grew worse as the pain radiated from his fingertips through his arm.

“Felt like bolts of lighting when I shot,” he said.

The discomfort persisted into 2017 and ’18. He consulted medical experts and hand specialists.

“The doctors, they pretty much just all told me to quit,” said Ellison, who also earned a silver in the team event at the 2012 London Games.

His wife, Toja, competes in archery for Slovenia and heard of a natural healer back home. The healer specialized in helping those with thyroid conditions, which Ellison has dealt with and for which he takes medication. He went in the fall of 2018 for that reason.

He never mentioned his arm concerns.

First consultation: “He told me that I had an injury in my right hand,” Ellison said.

Ellison said the process was simple. The healer put his hands on Ellison’s arm/hand and he almost instantly felt relief.

“Three days later I shot more arrows in a single day than I have in three years,” said Ellison, who still visits the healer when he and his wife return to Slovenia. “No pain.”

In 2019, Ellison turned in a memorable season that included a world title and a return to the No. 1 spot in the world rankings for the first time since March 2013.

“In the back of your head, you’re a little afraid (the pain) could happen again,” Ellison said. “So you make every day count while you can. I didn’t take anything for granted like before.”

An image of Ellison went viral on social media during the Rio Games. A picture of a bearded Ellison ran alongside a shot of actor Leonardo DiCaprio from the movie “The Revenant.”

The resemblance was spot on. He was asked almost as much about that as his medals.

“All of a sudden people just showed up at the field and I’m asked, ‘Hey, what do you think about the comparisons with him?’” recalled Ellison. “And then I looked it up and I’m like, ‘OK, this really became a thing.’ It’s all fun.”

Now, there’s even more in common with DiCaprio: Both appear in movies.

World Archery followed Ellison last season for a film titled “Believe: Brady Ellison.” He hasn’t seen an edited version, but has watched the trailer of the documentary due out this summer.

He gives it a thumbs up.

“Hopefully it will get a lot of hits since no sporting events are going on right now,” Ellison said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing it.”

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