(WSVN) - South Florida’s Ashleigh Johnson will soon be leaving for Tokyo to represent the US women’s water polo team in her second straight Olympics.
Johnson’s role on the team is more than just being starting goalkeeper.
How did a girl from Ransom Everglades High School become a first for the US women in water polo?
“That’s a good question because I’m still wondering myself,” Johnson said.
When team USA struck gold in the 2016 Rio games, Johnson was the first African American woman to be on a US Olympic women’s water polo team.
Johnson continues to break barriers in her sport.
“It’s been surreal actually to step into this role as a role model,” she said. “I was getting messages, people were coming up to me after games telling me how cool it was to see someone who looked like them in the pool and see someone who looked like them on the national team.”
When her schedule permits, Johnson comes back to Miami to run swim and water polo programs.
She doesn’t want kids to face questions she once had to because of the color of her skin.
“I was asked a lot of straightforward but subversive questions like, ‘How did you get here?’ like, ‘What are you doing here?'” she said. “My mom, when we were growing up got a lot of, ‘Shouldn’t you guys be running track or playing basketball?’ and of course she knew exactly what it meant but I was like, ‘Should we be?'”
With the support of her family, Johnson didn’t listen and pursued the sport she loved and wanted to excel in.
“I’m lucky that I had a lot of mentorships and a lot of people who recognized my ability and talent,” she said.
The 26-year-old goalkeeper once again leads a strong US team favored to win the gold medal for the third straight Olympics.
“This is a really cool opportunity to show the world like no matter what, the Olympic spirit carries through and I’m really excited to showcase that,” Johnson said. “We’re confident and we’re ready.”
Johnson is one of six players back from the 2016 gold medal-winning team.
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