If Ashleigh Johnson wants to see her Olympic gold medal, the No. 1 goalie on the U.S. water polo team can fly to Miami and look at the family trophy case.
“My gold medal is with my mom,” Johnson said on “Distanced Training” with Jac Collinsworth. “Me and my siblings played water polo and swam together our whole lives. All of our participation swim ribbons are in this case, and my gold medal is in this case.”
Johnson is about as accomplished as it gets for a 25-year-old.
After the Rio Olympic title, she took a break from the national team to write her 80-page senior thesis at Princeton, graduating in 2017 with a psychology degree and the distinction of being the school’s career saves leader. She’s plied her trade professionally for club teams in Italy and Greece.
Back in 2016, Johnson became the first black woman to play on a U.S. Olympic water polo team. She was also the only non-Californian on the Rio roster.
Johnson was one of five children raised by a single mom who moved to South Florida from Jamaica. She learned to swim with her siblings in a backyard pool growing up on a five-acre farm property, according to NBC Miami.
So Johnson’s favorite memory from Rio should come as little surprise.
“Getting to see my family celebrate with me in the stands after we won gold,” she said. “It was actually really special for me to be able to look up after every game and before every game and see in them in the stands. … It was really cool for those two worlds to merge at the pinnacle of that season and what we trained towards that whole Olympic cycle.”
The U.S. women won every major title since the Rio Olympics and are massive favorites for Tokyo. The Olympic postponement to 2021 was difficult, knowing a within-reach Olympic repeat bid must wait another year.
“The first thing in my mind [when the Olympics were postponed] was thinking about how close we were, and that’s hard because you know you have this one goal in mind,” she said. “You have this one thing that you’re moving for, this date, that, you’re like, OK, there are a lot of things that can change, everything’s kind of to be decided, but this is the one thing that won’t change. And when it moved, it was a little disappointing. I had to kind of refocus myself, rethink our season and then move forward, but I was definitely jarred.”
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