Brady Ellison can still vividly remember the first time his father, Alfred, took him hunting. Brady was still in diapers. Son, if some ducks fly by, tell me, Alfred had said. All of a sudden, Brady yelled out, "Bang! Bang! Bang!" Alfred fell off his chair as three mallards flew overhead.
"I said, 'I want to shoot some, too!' " Brady said, laughing.
Brady Ellison turns 23 later this month. He has grown into the world's No. 1-ranked archer. It all started from just wanting to be an outdoorsman in Arizona, where he grew up, hanging out with his dad, each with a gun or a bow in hand.
"Just to do stuff together," Brady said. "It really just grew from there."
Alfred Ellison is a man's man. The father has, as his son said, "done a lot of different stuff" for work, ranging from "fusing pipes together for mines" to being a foreman.
Brady is an only child.
If you think Arizona is only desert and boring -- best to go back to the geography books. The state has northern mountains, and lakes that are good for trout and bass fishing.
"It's not like New Mexico or Texas, where you have monster bass, but we do okay," Brady allowed.
When you grow up this way, just like in the Old West of lore, you naturally become a good shot, with guns and with arrows.
Indeed, the family scrapbook is filled with photos of Brady and dad with their hunts.
The jump from being a most excellent shot to No. 1 in the world with a bow in his hands is what has transpired over the past couple of years.
As Brady readily acknowledges, it's all in his head, and in this regard, this is where the script diverges from what could have been a black-and-white 1950s cowboy movie to include elements of 21st-century sports-psychologist New Age Zen dude.
Which Brady is, as he absolutely should be, proud of.
Coached by Lanny and Troy Basham of Mental Management Systems, he has done prodigious work on the mental side of his game. It's not just his game face. It's part of his routine -- his day, every day. And let's face it. Archery, especially at the elite level, is supremely mental.
Here is the realization that changed everything for Brady, and it's in two parts:
He is not afraid to lose.
He's there to win.
There's a subtle but crucial difference to each.
Until a couple years ago, he said, "I had a problem with fear. My fear was going somewhere no one had ever gone before. Once I got over that, I started winning tournaments.
"It was just something I realized I was doing I just got over it. Don't be afraid. If you're good enough, just go show the world you're good enough.
"Letting the fear go away -- knowing I can only control what I can control -- if I control myself, other people are going to work hard to beat me."
At, for instance, the Olympic test event this week at Lord's Cricket Ground in London, where the South Korean team set a new team world record in the quarterfinal round against Australia, 233 points, led by Im Dong-Hyun. That was two points better than the mark a South Korean team had set at the 2007 world championships.
In the semifinals at the London event, the Americans, led by Ellison, defeated the No. 1-seeded South Koreans, 222-216, and went on to defeat Chinese Taipei, 225-222, to take gold.
On Monday, he won the individual gold at the test event, defeating Im, 6-2.
For the season, as the world archery federation noted in a release, Ellison has won 34 of 36 events, or 94.4 percent. His average scores per tournament included 28.52 in Torino, Italy, which -- in assessing just how good that was -- the federation marked with not just one but three exclamation points.
Brady Ellison is one of the humblest, soft-spoken, decent athletes out there. He is also supremely confident. He has to be. That's how you win.
In recent years, the South Koreans have dominated archery at the Olympic Games. But a South Korean archer has never won the individual gold medal.
You want to know who, next summer on the same field at Lord's, is going to not just welcome but embrace that pressure?
"So many people out there are afraid to win a tournament," Brady Ellison said. "I'm afraid to lose. It makes me mad. You don't get a paycheck. You don't get rankings. There are so many more downsides to losing. I'm not afraid to win any more."
He also said, "It's just a gift from God the way I grew up. I honestly think there's not a person in the world with a bow in his hand who is mentally as strong as I am."