Professional Archery’s Power Couple

Olympian Brady & World Champion Toja Ellison are hitting the world stage, juggling parenthood along the way

Nestled in the hills southwest of Billings sits an Eden of archery for professional archers Toja and Brady Ellison.

“Look for the really long house,” Toja will tell you as she gives directions to their place. Outside, you’ll find targets peppered all over their land. Inside, the couple has an indoor practice facility they use daily to keep their form top notch for the next national or world competition.

“It’s muscle memory. It’s technique. It’s form. It’s the equipment. It’s trying to get better,” Toja says. “You have to do the same thing over and over and over again and if you do, you are going to hit the same spot, right? That’s what you want.”

Thanks to more than a dozen sponsors like Hoyt Archery and TRU Ball Archery, Toja and Brady are able to train full time.

“We do this as a team,” Toja says. “That’s why we can do this.”

Stepping into Toja’s world, you get a glimpse of the chaos that comes with being a mom, a professional archer and the wife of a professional archer. The couple have two boys, Ty, 3 and Bo, 6 months. Juggling seems to come naturally to this 30-year-old Slovenian national.

“Our family dynamic is not all about archery anymore. Before we would just shoot and shoot and shoot. Now, it’s children and being able to manage that,” Toja says. “We don’t do daycare. We don’t do babysitters. We have grandparents that help a little bit, but nobody lives here. Day to day, we are doing this by ourselves.”

Brady starts his workday at around 9 a.m. and works until he’s able to shoot about 300 arrows. Toja juggles motherhood, practicing during nap time, shooting roughly 150 arrows each day.

On the morning of our visit, the family was a little bleary-eyed having flown in on a red eye flight from Florida, landing just hours earlier. Toja and Brady had spent the weekend competing in the 2024 Gator Cup. It was an Olympic qualifier for Brady, who in one day of competition punched his ticket to his fifth Olympic games. That means come July, this young family will be Paris-bound as Brady continues his hunt for gold. He’s medaled three times at the Olympics — a team silver in the 2012 London games, a team silver and an individual bronze in the 2016 Rio games but never the coveted gold. 

“Here we go again!” Toja says with a laugh. “He was able to lock his spot for the games a day early so he didn’t even have to shoot the last day and he would still go to the games. I am so proud of him.”

So how does a Slovenian girl end up in love with an American archer and landing thousands of miles from Ljubljana, Slovenia, where she grew up? Toja believes it was due to a single arrow that flew from her bow when she was just 13 years old.

“I got a staph infection in my back. The bacteria got stuck in my bone and literally ate away my disc and completely hollowed two of my vertebrae,” Toja says, adding that she’s since healed. Though she doesn’t have a disc, she doesn’t have any issues with her back. At the time, she was a gymnast, but doctors warned her that she needed to quit the high-impact sport. Knowing she couldn’t sit idle, a friend asked if she wanted to come along as she practiced with her new archery bow.

“I went with her and shot that first arrow,” Toja says. “It was love at first arrow.”

She asked for a bow for Christmas, she says, and “my love for archery just grew.”

By the time she was 14, she was already traveling for competition. Her first major tournament was in Great Britain for the World Archery Field Championships.

“It’s in the forest and you are shooting targets up and down and at different distances. It’s my favorite,” she says.

That first tournament came with a harsh lesson.

“There were only four of us competing. I came in fourth,” Toja says, adding that the tournament changed her forever. “I said I will never be last again because I didn’t work hard. I came home and changed schools, which allowed me to have shorter school days so I had more time in the afternoon to shoot.” She’s quick to add, “I’ve worked very hard ever since.”

Competing for Slovenia, Toja seemed to have an open ticket to any world competition. So, when the World Cup landed in Medellin, Colombia, in 2014, she says, “I was the only one in Slovenia that qualified to go to the World Cup. I was 20 at the time. I went by myself, completely by myself.”

That’s when she says she crossed paths with an ornery American who was there competing as well.

“I knew who Brady was,” she says. “Everyone in archery knew who Brady was but I wasn’t that fan girl. I just am not that type of person. I knew he was the best in the world.”

When asked if they fell for each other immediately, both chuckle.

“I knew I liked her,” Brady says. “I was a little anti-woman at the time.”

“He had a hard time trusting women and I came in like a love bomb ready to love,” Toja says with a laugh. “Now, here we are 10 years later. We are the best team, in archery and in life.”

The fact that it all came down to that first arrow isn’t lost on Toja.

“If I think about it now, I wouldn’t have the husband that I have. I wouldn’t have the children that I have,” Toja says. “Everything is the way it is because of that arrow that I shot and I am so thankful.”

In June, Toja and Brady traveled to Indiana for the U.S. Field Nationals. It was a competition she’d been training hard for and looking forward to. She took second place in the women’s compound division. Brady took first in the men’s recurve division. Within days, they were on a plane to Turkey for the World Cup.

 “One Ellison on the podium is a good week,” Toja says with a smile. “It doesn’t matter which Ellison.”

Since 2010, Brady Ellison has continuously been ranked in the top 10 in the world for men’s recurve archery.

Going into the Olympics, at 35 Brady is still at the top of his game. Since 2010, he’s never fallen out of the top 10 when it comes to men’s world rankings for recurve archery. He’s earned well over 120 medals on the world stage and can’t wait for Paris.

“These games feel so much different to me. I’m super calm and super relaxed going into the Olympics. I feel the most calm I’ve felt,” Brady says.

Meantime, Toja, who still competes for Slovenia, is hoping to earn a gold at the Word Field Championships in Lac La Biche, Canada, this September. She landed a gold medal in 2014 but in the last two games, she took silver.  

“I was always so close to that gold,” Toja says. “I walked off and I just said, I won silver. I did not lose gold. I just won silver.” When asked if she was on the hunt to gain another gold, she simply says, “Yes. I am going to do my best to be my best.”

In 2023, Toja Ellison was ranked third in the world for women’s compound archery

When asked what she hopes to be remembered for in life, it’s not archery.

“When I die and put a line underneath my life, I want to be better than where I started in all shapes and forms — better friend, better daughter, better mom, better wife,” she says.

She knows there will come a time when her two boys will be put ahead of her passion with archery. 

“I’m literally there for those two humans — how they are going to end up and what they are going to do in life. It’s important to me,” Toja says. “There will probably be a point in time when I step away from archery because I want to give them an opportunity to find what is theirs.”

That time, she says, hasn’t yet come.

“Archery is mine. I am the only one who can walk away from it,” Toja says. “Archery can’t walk away from me. But I can walk away from it and I am not quite ready to do that yet.”

Fun Fact

Brady and Toja shoot different styles of bows. Brady uses a recurve bow, which requires more strength to pull and is simpler in design. Toja shoots a compound bow, which is made up of a complex pulley and release system. At the present time, the Olympics features only recurve archery.


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