Water Polo

Ashleigh Johnson’s Olympic gold medal housed with family’s other sports mementos

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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.”

MORE: Next water polo world championships get new dates

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U.S. women’s water polo team’s first loss since 2018 ends record streak

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The U.S. women’s water polo team suffered its first loss since April 2018, ending a believed-to-be record 69-game win streak on Thursday.

Australia beat the U.S. 10-9 in the second game of a three-game series in Brisbane. Australian captain Rowie Webster netted the game-winner on a penalty shot with 30 seconds left.

The U.S.’ last loss, on April 2, 2018, was also to Australia.

The Americans are 153-5 dating to December 2015, not dropping a game at an Olympics, World Championship, World Cup or a World League Super Final in that span.

Adam Krikorian has been head coach since 2009 with a bevy of talent at his disposal. The most prominent is Maggie Steffens, a member of every title team in the 2010s at the Olympics, worlds, World Cup and World League.

Come Tokyo, the U.S. hopes to become the third nation to win three straight Olympic water polo titles, joining the Hungarian men (2000-08) and British men (1900-20). Women’s water polo debuted at the Olympics in 2000.

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MORE: U.S. water polo among most dominant Olympic teams of 2010s decade

Americans dot dominant Olympic teams of 2010s decade

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NBCSports.com looks back at the 2010s decade this week. Here are six Olympic teams (in team sports) that dominated the last 10 years …

U.S. Men’s Basketball
2012, 2016 Olympic titles
2010, 2014 World titles

The successors to the Redeem Team kept the U.S. Olympic dominance intact in London and Rio, going undefeated under coach Mike KrzyzewskiKevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony have to be the MVPs, going one-two in scoring for the Americans at both Games. Anthony became the first U.S. man to earn three Olympic basketball titles and broke LeBron James‘ career U.S. Olympic points record. The decade ended on a sour note, with the Americans losing in the FIBA World Cup quarterfinals in September under new coach Gregg Popovich.

U.S. Women’s Basketball
2012, 2016 Olympic titles
2010, 2014, 2018 World titles

Undefeated in FIBA competition in the 2010s, winning every Olympic and World Cup game by double digits and by an average of 32 points per game. Former University of Connecticut stars Sue BirdDiana Taurasi and Tina Charles were part of every major international roster. Their college coach, Geno Auriemma, was at the helm through the Rio Games. Since, Dawn Staley succeeded Auriemma. Another UConn great, Breanna Stewart, took MVP at the 2018 World Cup.

Canada/U.S. Women’s Hockey
Combined to win every Olympic and world title in the 2010s
Two Olympic finals decided in overtime or shootout

Canada had the edge by winning two of the three Olympic titles. The U.S. owned the rivalry at the world championships — winning six of seven titles. These two national teams define women’s hockey, and so they both belong on this list. It began in Vancouver, where 18-year-old Marie-Philip Poulin scored twice, fellow Olympic rookie Shannon Szabados stopped all 21 U.S. shots and the Canadians celebrated on ice with Molsons, cigars and at least one ice-resurfacing machine. In Sochi, the U.S. squandered a one-goal lead with a minute left, with Poulin scoring the equalizer and the overtime winner. Canada nearly completed a perfect Olympic decade in PyeongChang, giving up a third-period lead and falling in a shootout that went to an extra round. The U.S. was led by stalwart forward Hilary Knight, twins Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando and 20-year-old Olympic rookie goalie Maddie Rooney.

Russia Synchronized Swimming
2012, 2016 Olympic titles
Won all 10 world titles in the 2010s in technical/free routines

Russia owns every Olympic gold medal this millennium in synchronized swimming, which is now called artistic swimming. The dynasty draws from Russia’s balletic traditions. If the program was weak in any aspect, it was from a lack of male synchronized swimmers. But not anymore. The mixed-gender duet events aren’t part of the Olympic program yet, but two debuted on the world championships program in 2015. It wasn’t until this past summer that Russia swept those gold medals.

U.S. Women’s Water Polo
2012, 2016 Olympic titles
2015, 2017, 2019 World titles

The Americans are 149-4 dating to 2015, not dropping a game at an Olympics, World Championship, World Cup or a World League Super Final in that span. They’re currently on a 65-game win streak. They have three games left in 2019, looking to finish 37-0 to complete the first perfect calendar year during the current reign of dominance. Adam Krikorian has been head coach for the entire decade with a bevy of talent at his disposal. The most prominent is Maggie Steffens, a member of every title team this decade at the Olympics, worlds, World Cup and World League.

Honorable Mention: Sweden Women’s Curling and Canada Men’s Hockey.

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BEST OF 2010s: Summer Olympians | Winter Olympians | Teams
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