I took this photo of Brady Ellison literally just a few seconds before he went onstage for the final match at the 2017 Antalya World Cup. JC Valladont was immediately in front of him, and he’d already been waved through the curtains.
I’ve taken many photos of Brady now, but I don’t think I’ve ever had one where he’s actually looking straight at me. It’s also one of only a couple I’ve taken that seem to capture something of the man and the competitor. Mostly I prefer documentary photography, when the photographer removes himself (in a loose philosophical sense) from the subject. But the directness of his gaze in a photo like this suddenly says something about the photographer. I’m part of it. In the room. It becomes a portrait. Also, Dean Alberga was kind enough to help me with the editing, which is half the real magic these days. Pulling the grain from the stone. (If you want to go deeper, you’ll have to start reading this).
He went out there and nailed one of the most exciting matches witnessed this year, a battle of two guys who genuinely like and respect each other – they hang out and go fishing – and yet would give absolutely no quarter. Every single person in the house, every archer was hanging on to the railing for that match, which didn’t happen for anything else. Everyone wanted to be there.
Brady opened with an 8 in the third, then Valladont matched it, knowing it was bad when it left the bow, bending his body to try and curve it in. He followed with two nines, and Brady had two points on the board, but opened with a nine in the fourth with the score 4-2.
Annoyed, he angrily nocked the next arrow. Both archers had a 9 and a 10 for their first two, but Brady kicked the door wide open with an 8 to finish. Valladont only needed a nine, which he delivered emphatically – although it was instantly upgraded to a 10. Valladont had his second World Cup gold, and over one of the strongest opponents in the world.
In the end, it was Valladont’s finishing kick, which had deserted him in the mixed team. It came back, and he was simply a little stronger. He deserved it. But Brady would have deserved it too. There was something in the air.
I was there working for World Archery on the media team, the fifth or so time I’ve been out to do so at one of these events. This delivery was relatively smooth, although it’s invariably a team effort which requires solving new problems every day. No-one realises quite how much work is involved by World Archery and the dozens and dozens of local staff and volunteers to make it happen, and then happen again two weeks later somewhere else. It’s a big, lumbering machine rather than a well-oiled one, but the dedication to making the magic happen is marked by almost total professionalism. It’s quite a special thing to be a part of.
We had awesome translators for pretty much every language, and came up with cunning technological workarounds for the ones we didn’t. I even managed to get the Russian team to say something. We had someone jury rig air conditioners to our media shed on the finals field so we didn’t collapse in the heat – like some team members did last year, when Antalya hit 40 degrees in the shade. Everyone else had to stay outdoors all day. Sorry.
A Korea, China and Netherlands-less stage felt like it could have the air of a letdown, but there was some incredible quality shooting going on. I wish I had more time to blog. There isn’t any spare time, or if there is, there isn’t any spare energy. None.
Denmark became the Korea of compound; you might get a look in for a gold medal, but don’t get your hopes up. One well-known compound archer got annoyed with the media team for reporting that they had lost a match, and wouldn’t speak to us again. One well-known recurve archer was suddenly removed from the attending list a couple of weeks beforehand, and everyone eventually found out why. Oh, I wish I was allowed to share more of the gossip.
Antalya is the Criterium du Dauphine of archery. History under blazing sunshine. It was worth all the sweat, all the hard work to see that final. It represented the sport at its best, as representative of the best. It was beautiful.
Look out for a photo essay in the next-but-one issue of Bow International.
You can read what I wrote about the 2014 Antalya World Cup here.