tokyo olympics

Water Polo Goalie Ashleigh Johnson Hopes to Bring Home Gold Again for Team USA

As the first Black woman on the roster for USA Water Polo, Johnson is breaking barriers in the sport. 

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Ashleigh Johnson has punched her ticket to Tokyo. The goalie is dominating in the pool for USA Water Polo as she gets ready for the Olympics once again. 

"Hearing that I made my second Olympic team was so exciting. I called my mom, I called my sister, I called all my friends and family. It’s something special and something different to be a part of the U.S. Women’s Water Polo Olympic team," said water polo goalie Ashleigh Johnson. 

Tokyo will be Johnson's second Olympics after she helped her team win gold in Rio in 2016. She says the team is focused after waiting five years for this moment since the global pandemic pushed back the Olympics to 2021. 

"No one in our lifetime has experienced anything like this so it’s going to be a really interesting opportunity to show how resilient we all are," said Johnson. 

Johnson is a hometown girl from South Florida. Her passion for aquatics began when her mom signed up her and her siblings for swim lessons after they bought a house with a pool. 

“Growing up in water polo and in Miami, that was where I started and where I come from and it’s always where I go back to," she said. "So it’s really cool to share the joy of being a part of this Olympic team and all of our Olympic journeys with the people back home because I’m Miami born and raised and being from a place so special with so much to offer just continually reminds me where I come from and who I’m representing."

The accomplished athlete is also representing more than Miami. As the first Black woman on the roster for USA Water Polo, she is breaking barriers in the sport. 

“Having the opportunity to represent as a Black woman in water polo is a very special opportunity. Having grown through the sport and having lived the experience as a Black woman in a predominantly white space who is excelling and succeeding in spite of stereotypes and in spite of narratives and in spite of not seeing much representation from people who look like me. It’s really special to welcome that responsibility. I’m always happy to be a mirror for a young Black girl or a young Black boy to see themselves in," said Johnson.

The fierce goalie not only graduated from Princeton (2017) with her sister (2018), but she has also been named Women's Water Polo Player of the Year by Swimming World Magazine four times and Women's Sports Foundation Team Sportswoman of the Year in 2016. Now she's adding two-time Olympian to her list of accolades. 

“It’s a humbling experience to be an Olympian, to be an elite athlete, to be a part of this team because you can’t do it alone. It’s only special because you do it with all of these different people,” said Johnson. 

The Olympics will look a little different this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, but that's not stopping Johnson from racking up the saves as she heads to Tokyo. 

“Every moment that we get it we’re going to push to do our best and I’m just excited to see how far we can push the limits as a team," said Johnson.

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