Olympics 2012: Team USA's Athletes Gunning for London Gold

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Favorite Cowboy: Archer Brady Ellison
Nick Laham/Getty Images6/11

Favorite Cowboy: Archer Brady Ellison

Like most Olympians, Brady Ellison's story begins with a dream. Unlike most Olympians, it also begins with an impaled pig. "I didn't kill my first animal with a bow until I was probably 14," says the 23-year-old archer. "It was a javelina. It's also called the collared pig. Actually, it's more of a rodent." Almost a decade since that fateful encounter, Ellison is the number-one-ranked archer on the planet and a favorite to win gold in London. And his signature down-home-hunter look – beat-up baseball cap, cowboy boots, big ol' belt buckle, rangy backwoods beard – has given an obscure sport its first iconic athlete. "I'm more of a cowboy-type country than redneck-type country," he says. "Although I've been called a redneck and a hick." His father bought him his first bow and arrow at around age six, and Ellison developed his love of shooting while spending summers on his grandfather's Arizona cattle ranch: "bow hunting, bow fishing – everything I do involves the outdoors." That background was well-suited to competitive archery, which he compares to golf in being as much about patience and mental dexterity as physical prowess; training for the Olympics involves monotonous 12-hour sessions where he'll shoot at least 400 arrows. "There are times when you're just at the point where you think, 'It would be nice to go hunting,' " he says.

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