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August 06, 2008

Olympic archer Ellison lets competition 'go to his head'

First-time U.S. Olympic Team archer Brady Ellison hasn't even competed in his first event, but he has already seen himself win the gold medal.

He won't be offended if you say "he'd gone mental." In fact, he'd probably agree with you.

"It's all mental," says the 19-year-old Ellison, a native of Glendale , Ariz. , who won the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials gold medal in May. "I train more mentally than I do technically. When you're working on form and shooting, it's good to work on your technique, but at the same time, you have to work on your mental routine and your mental game.

"Mainly what I've been doing for here is a lot of imagery: me winning the Games, me winning the gold medal, me being calm, overcoming the conditions and visualizing different scenarios. Everything positive. Always making good shots.

"You completely imagine everything the way you want it to happen, detail for detail. Your mind can't tell the difference between something that is visually imagined and something that actually happens. If you're constantly thinking about making a good shot and perfect form and perfect technique, your mind thinks that you're actually shooting that. So when you go out and shoot your bow, you're going to do it."

Ellison is quick to give credit on his approach to "mental coach" Lanny Bassham, who won a gold medal in shooting at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games and runs his own mental management company.

"He's taught me a lot. It's something when it's first taught to you, you're like 'yeah, whatever.' Then after you finally start doing it and you commit yourself to it, you really believe in it because you see the difference."

Ellison, who will be competing in both the individual and team events (with teammates Butch Johnson and Vic Wunderle) in Beijing , actually competed in a test event here last year, an experience that he added to his mental arsenal.

"One thing that's helped me here is I shot at this stadium last year, both in team rounds and in individual, so I knew exactly what everything looked like. I was able to put the exact stadium into my mind," says Ellison.

Added to Ellison's mental training is the technical guidance he's received over the last two years from National Team Coach Kisik Lee at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. Lee is a legend in the sport and produced multiple gold medal winners as former Korean National Team Coach.

Ellison has been on a roll lately with an Olympic Trials gold medal and most recently a silver at World Cup #3 in Antalya , Turkey .

"I think that I'm shooting the best I've ever shot, from a day to day basis. I'm a lot more consistent," says Ellison. "I'm slowly starting to shoot higher scores and having a good control over my shot every day."

And don't worry about the "Olympic Experience" getting to this focused teenager.

"I really didn't know what to expect coming in here. I'm kind of surprised how easy everything feels, how calm it is. I guess a lot of that is just my mental attitude towards the whole thing. I'm not nervous. I'm not feeling I have to do well. As long as I can just get in there and make good shots, whatever happens, happens."

That kind of attitude could produce a gold.

But it's all in his head... for now.

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