America’s most talented archer returned Jan. 9 to his roots when 19-year-old Brady Ellison visited Payson Elementary School to talk to students about his pursuit of the Olympic dream.
Ellison, now a resident athlete at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., formerly attended both PES and Rim Country Middle School before moving to Glendale at the end of his seventh-grade year.
In 2008, Ellison took first place in all three Olympic Trials and was the top member of the U.S. team that traveled to Beijing in August 2008.
Although Ellison did not medal there, he has not given up his Olympic dreams.
Almost immediately after his return to the U.S. from China, he reported to the California training center to begin preparations for the 2012 Olympics in London.
But before he has another shot at winning an Olympic gold, there is a long itinerary of competitions he’s also focused on.
They include the World Archery Festival in Las Vegas, the indoor world championships in Poland, the Mexican Grand Prix in Baja, Mexico and the World Cup in the Dominican Republic.
He’s also scheduled to travel this year to Croatia, Turkey, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, China, El Salvador, Korea, Denmark and a host of American cities.
“His archery is taking him all over the world,” said his grandmother Alesha Calderwood, a longtime Payson resident who traveled to Beijing to cheer for Brady.
The travels, she added, “ are proving to be a great education for him.”
Ellison has been involved in competitive archery since he was 8 years old and lived in Payson.
He fondly recalls those days in the Rim Country.
“I remember Payson as a small town where you could ride your bike out into the forests and shoot or do about anything you wanted to,” he said.
“I had a lot of fun there.”
In 2003, after years of archery hunting, smoker shoots and 3D shooting, he gave target archery a try and in 2004 made his first world team.
He has since become a U.S. indoor champion, a Pan Am Games team member, a junior and senior national champ, U.S. Open champ and is now ranked the No. 1 recurve archer in the United States and No. 12 in the world.
Ellison got his start in archery traveling around rural Arizona, often to Mormon Lake, Usery Mountain and Globe, to compete in a variety of shoots.
Among the most unusual competitions were novelty shoots.
In those, the hosting archery club usually made up its own format and rules and some contests were unique.
In one novelty event, Ellison won a ham for shooting the hog leg from a distance of about 50 yards while it was swinging from a string bound around a tree branch.
As a 13-year-old, he once won nine consecutive competitions often against much older archers.
In 2004, while a student at Glendale Mountain Ridge High School, he emerged on the national shooting scene traveling to Britain as a member of the USA Junior Outdoor Target Archery World Championship Team.
When not practicing or competing, he enjoys golf, fishing and hunting, but says the rigorous schedule at the Olympic Training Center doesn’t leave him much free time.