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Ashleigh JOHNSON
Sport Water Polo
NOC United States   
GenderWomen
Born12 Sep 1994 in Miami, FL, USA
Height1.86 m
 Human Interest 
Further Personal Information
Residence
Seal Beach, CA, USA
Occupation
Athlete
Languages
English, Spanish
Higher education
Psychology - Princeton University: United States
Sport Specific Information
When and where did you begin this sport?
She learned to swim in a pool on her family's five-acre farm at age nine. She began playing water polo at a community swimming pool in Miami, FL, United States of America.
Why this sport?
She and her siblings were introduced to water polo through their swimming lessons. "We grew up with a pool in our backyard and our mum would leave home every day and be like calling 20 times a day because none of us knew how to swim. So, she got us swim lessons and that programme happened to have water polo. I loved the competitiveness. Especially as a goalie, you get to compete every time the ball is on your side of the pool."
Club / Team
Ethnikos Piraeus: Greece
Name of coach
Marko Micic [club]; Adam Krikorian [national], USA
Training Regime
She uses a journal to aid her training. "I try not to get stuck into a routine because our team has a pretty good routine built in to ensure a stable mindset before a game. Journaling has really been something that centres me and helps me know where I am. Within my journal I review where I am and where I want to be because I'm constantly setting goals and aspiring to meet them but in a kind-to-myself type of way. It helps me stay in the moment and helps me be aware of where I want to go. I have to know what I want and set some structure for myself within the day mentally. Writing things out helps me do that."
Preferred position / style / stance / technique
Goalkeeper
General Interest
Nicknames
Ayay (usawaterpolo.org, 20 Jun 2019)
Most influential person in career
Her family. (USA TODAY YouTube channel, 23 Jul 2021)
Hero / Idol
US tennis player Serena Williams, French footballer Thierry Henry. (olympics.com, 06 May 2021; usawaterpolo.org, 13 Aug 2015)
Sporting philosophy / motto
"Don't let fear be the reason you don't try something, let it be the reason you do." (usawaterpolo.org, 20 Jun 2019)
Awards and honours
She was named in Forbes magazine's 30 Under 30 list for 2022, which recognises the 30 most influential people of the year under age 30. (forbes.com, 30 Nov 2021)

She was named Goalkeeper of the Tournament at the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games. (fina.org, 07 Aug 2021; ONS, 19 Aug 2016)

In 2020 she was named in The Root 100, which lists the 100 most influential African Americans of the year. (interactives.theroot.com, 01 Jan 2020)

She was named the Most Valuable Player [MVP] of the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju, Republic of Korea. (usawaterpolo.org, 31 Aug 2019)

She received Swimming World Magazine's Female Water Polo Player of the Year award in 2014, 2016 and 2019. (Facebook page, 07 Jan 2020, 15 May 2018; goprincetontigers.com, 05 Jan 2015)

She was named Goalkeeper of the Tournament at the World Cup in 2014 and 2018. (fina.org, 09 Sep 2018; usawaterpolo.org, 09 Mar 2016)

In 2017 she received the Peter J. Cutino Award as the top female collegiate water polo player in the United States of America. (swimmingworldmagazine.com, 19 Aug 2020)

She was named the Women's Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year in 2016. (Facebook page, 15 May 2018)

She was named Goalkeeper of the Tournament at the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russian Federation. She was also named the Most Valuable Player [MVP] of the final at the tournament. (usawaterpolo.org, 09 Mar 2016)
Famous relatives
Her sister Chelsea has played water polo for Princeton University in the United States of America. (usawaterpolo.org, 13 Aug 2015)
Ambitions
To compete at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. (Just Women's Sports YouTube channel, 09 Dec 2021)
Other information
ROLE MODEL
She has spoken of her desire to be a role model in water polo. "My role on [the 2016] Olympic team was a very important step on my mission to be a role model for young black girls and other people who want to play this sport. I want to represent the people who look up to me. Being black in a predominately white sport is an interesting experience. The most prominent thing that I can point to in my experience growing through the sport, is that it was very isolating at times. When I was younger, I got questions from other kids in the sport, parents, and even strangers asking questions like, 'Can black people float?' or, 'Black people don't swim, how come you know how?' Questions like these and other similar things implied that I didn't belong, and people like me didn't belong. That put a lot of pressure on me when I was younger to either act like race wasn't something that was part of my reality or absolutely crush the expectations that people had for me." (USA TODAY YouTube channel, 23 Jul 2021; Olympics YouTube channel, 14 Apr 2018; nbcnews.com, 17 Aug 2020)

TIME OUT
She took more than a year out of water polo after the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, citing exhaustion as a reason for the break. She used the time to complete her studies at Princeton University before returning to the national team. "I missed the girls. I missed the competitive environment. Playing water polo here is like playing nowhere else. It's like a family, a really competitive family. When you're in it, you're lucky to be a part of it, and you realise that every day, because you get to be around these strong, amazing women." (fina.org, 06 Sep 2019)

OVERSEAS EXPERIENCE
In 2021 she joined Greek club Ethnikos Piraeus. She had previously spent time overseas playing for Greek club NC Vouliagmeni and Italian side Ekipe Orizzonte. "My favourite part of playing overseas is getting to know the people that I'm playing against. When we're playing in the countries as just individuals, we get so much more of an opportunity to get to know the best people at personal level. It just humanises the whole game for me because if you only play with the national team and you only see the people who you're playing against through a scouting report, they're kind of faceless names or numbers. Within water polo, there's such limited pathways to get to the professional level, to anything past college, and there's so much talent and so many who want to play past college. I think the next step is a league in the US. If there were a league in the US, I would be the first to join it." (swimmingworldmagazine.com, 10 Feb 2022; Just Women's Sports YouTube channel, 09 Dec 2021; justwomenssports.com, 18 Nov 2021; usawaterpolo.org, 31 Aug 2019)

SWIM SISTERS
In 2016 she co-founded the Johnson Sisters Swim Program alongside her sister Chelsea, with the aim of introducing young scholars in Miami, FL, United States of America, to swimming. "Me and my sister actually started a Johnson Sisters Swim Program. We partnered with an academic enrichment programme whose constituents were already the population that we hope to impact. Once I'm done I hope that I can go down and just be able to help these kids access the opportunities that swimming and water polo have to offer." (swimmingworldmagazine.com, 10 Feb 2022; LinkedIn profile, 07 Feb 2022; time.com, 27 Jul 2021; USA TODAY YouTube channel, 23 Jul 2021; olympics.com, 06 May 2021; usopm.org, 01 Jan 2020)

HERITAGE
Her parents Winston and Donna were born in Jamaica. Donna migrated to the United States of America in 1988. (olympics.com, 06 May 2021; goprincetontigers.com, 23 Feb 2021; people.com, 03 Dec 2020; jamaicaobserver.com, 24 Jun 2016)

 Competition Highlights
Olympic Games
Rank Year Venue Event Result
1 2021 Tokyo, JPN Team  
1 2016 Rio de Janeiro, BRA Team  
World Championship
Rank Year Venue Event Result
1 2022 Budapest, HUN Team  
1 2019 Gwangju, KOR Team  
1 2015 Kazan, RUS Team  
World Cup
Rank Year Venue Event Result
1 2018 Surgut, RUS Team  
1 2014 Khanty-Mansiysk, RUS Team  
Pan American Games
Rank Year Venue Event Result
1 2019 Lima, PER Team  
1 2015 Toronto, CAN Team