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RIO DE JANEIRO -- After U.S. archer Brady Ellison shot his final arrow Friday at the Sambodromo, he screamed and hugged his coach, Kisik Lee. By securing his first individual medal, a bronze, at the Rio 2016 Olympics, he had accomplished a dream 20 years in the making.
"I've medaled at everything now," said Ellison, who also has won Olympic team medals, world championship and Pan American Games individual medals, and World Cup Final titles. "I have an individual Olympic medal -- and we haven't had one in a long time."
Ellison is the first U.S. archer to win an individual medal since Vic Wunderle won silver at the Sydney 2000 Games. Ellison also won team silver earlier this week and at the London 2012 Games.
"It means a lot to wear this medal around my neck," Ellison said. "It's an honor to represent my country and step on that podium twice in one event."
Ellison defeated the Netherlands' Sjef van den Berg, 6-2, in the bronze-medal match. He scored a perfect 30 points in the third set to break a 2-2 tie.
Such precision wasn't easy, he said, given his narrow defeat in the semifinals earlier Friday via a one arrow shoot-off. Ellison missed left and scored an eight. Eventual gold medalist Ku Bonchan of South Korea scored a nine to advance to the finals.
"It took me two sets to get my head back into that match," Ellison said of his medal-winning effort against van den Berg. "I came off the line during the second set and told coach I need to get my head in this as I am not thinking about this match."
After the semifinal, Lee told him to find his comfort zone. He knows all Ellison had been through and wanted to remind him of the moment.
"I told him to keep a strong focus and make good on what you are doing," Lee said.
The strategy worked as Ellison regrouped to win his first individual Olympic medal on his third try. He finished 17th in the individual event at the London 2012 Games and 27th in 2008.
"I've been through a lot but I can't use that as an excuse," said Ellison, whose perspective is shaped by the rare leg condition, Perthes disease, that required him to wear leg braces as a child. "Anything that happens, you just have to get back up and go through it. You don't know how tough you are until tough is the only option that you have."
Ellison had to go head-to-head against both of his U.S. teammates, Jake Kaminski and Zach Garrett, as he advanced to the bronze-medal match.
"Both Jake and Zach shot amazing and had medal performances," Ellison said. "They shot well enough to win a medal. This medal is just as much mine as it is theirs."
Ellison said that he plans to continue competing. He also said he sees great potential in the U.S. team and would like to compete with Kaminski and Garrett at the Tokyo 2020 Games.
Jaylon Thompson is a student in the Sports Media Certificate program at the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.
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