Toja Ellison: My plan is to become a better person
It’s been nearly 10 years since Toja Ellison (née Cerne) made her international archery debut. She became World Archery Field Champion at Zagreb 2014 and has collected multiple indoor and outdoor World Cup medals over her career.
Born and raised in Ljubljana, Slovenia, she moved to the USA after getting married to three-time Olympic medallist Brady Ellison in 2016.
“It’s been officially six months [I’ve been a resident here], pretty much since January. I’m officially a green card holder,” said Toja. “Before I was in and out for about three years. I’m getting used to it.”
Being “permanently” far away from home is something, said Toja, that can be hard at times.
“I went back home before Shanghai and after it, I was there for one day, too. I’m going back after this tournament. I’m lucky to spend some time there with my family. I miss it there. I thought it was going to be easier than it is, but I miss my family and friends. I was building my life there for 22 years, so it’s not that in two years that is going to change. That’s the people I grew up with,” she said.
Toja described herself as a planned person – a characteristic that extends to all corners of life: “I want to be a mom, a doctor [of alternative medicine] and shoot a bow for the rest of my life, too.”
She has found in the States – where she can be fully-focused on archery, shoot more tournaments and measure her level against other female archers more often than in Slovenia – a place to grow both a person and an archer.
“I’ve been figuring out that archery is more about personal growth than about winning or losing,” she explained. “It’s about becoming a better person and, I can say it for myself that, I’m working on it. I’m coming to a point where I ask myself if I’m making someone happy, if I’m helping someone, if I’m enjoying what I’m doing.”
There are benefits to shooting in the US, too:
“Here it’s easier to get equipment, If I need arrows I can pretty much get them tomorrow, if I need help, I have Mel and Brady. For the first time in my life, I actually have a coach. That’s also different (and better).”
“Here there’s a lot more wind than at home; I’m not afraid of the wind anymore.”
It’s taken time to work out how the coach, training partner and husband relationship work on the archery field. Brady lets Toja shoot and, only when she has a question, looks to him for advice.
“We shoot matches together, we make them difficult. Brady gets a couple of points and I need to shoot better, so it’s fun. I’m happy I have someone to shoot with. In Slovenia I had that but not every day,” she added.
In the lead up to and during the Olympics, Ellison – who left Rio with team silver and individual bronze – credited his wife with upping his game.
Toja, too, said her priorities have changed. Winning and losing are no longer the most important things in life.
“I think I will forever hold a bow in my hand but maybe, in five years, I will have a kid. I’ll probably shoot a little less because once I’m a mom; I want to be a mom,” she said. “But I also believe that once an archer, forever an archer.”
The third stage of the 2017 Hyundai Archery World Cup runs 20 to 25 June in Salt Lake City, USA.