Ashleigh Johnson, goalie of the United States water polo team, blocked 11 of 15 shots from the opposing team from Spain in the Olympic water polo final, leading the Americans to their third consecutive gold medal in the sport. Johnson, who is of Jamaican descent, is the first Black woman to make the US Olympic water polo team. The nine of the US players scored goals against Spain, including Madeline Musselman, who had three.
Johnson’s goal rate during her time in goal was 73 percent, compared to Spain’s main goalie who blocked just 19 percent of the shots. The final score of the match was 14 to 5. Johnson said she was very proud of her team’s performance and hoped everyone watching appreciated their effort “because we gave everything that we had.” Johnson is described as one of the best goalies in the world and blocked shot after shot in the final, treading water the entire time. According to the USA coach Adam Krikorian, this is what makes her the best goalie in the world. She gives the team a lot of confidence, he said, noting, “When she’s back there and you see that big smile of hers, it gives you the confidence but it also relaxes you a little bit and it helped to settle us in.” Johnson was named Top Female Player by Swimming World in 2019 for the fourth time in a ten-year period.
Johnson also won the 2019 Total Player Award, the top award from Total Water Polo after making the Total Water Polo list of the Top 10 Female Players. The award-winning players were selected by a panel of 60 experts, 18 media outlets, and 10,000 votes from the general public. Johnson received another honor in 2019 when she was named Most Valuable Player at the FINA World Championships that year for making 43 saves that led Team USA to a gold medal. At the 2019 Pan American Games, Johnson made a total of 42 saves.
Ashleigh Johnson was born in Miami, Florida, but her mother is from Kingston, and the athlete spent time during her childhood with her father, grandmother, and aunt in Duhaney Park. Johnson and her siblings have strong ties to Jamaica, making frequent trips to visit family on the island. Before moving to the US in 1988, Johnson’s mother earned a BS degree in International Relations from the University of the West Indies and worked for JAMPRO.
Photo: Ashleigh Johnson Facebook by Margaret Ann Steffens