COCONUT GROVE, FLA. (WSVN) - - A South Florida athlete who took home the gold at the Olympics in water polo — twice — returned to her old stomping grounds at Ransom Everglades School.

Students at the school, located in Coconut Grove, got a chance to meet and talk to Ashleigh Johnson on Thursday.

Fresh off the 2021 Summer Olympics, Johnson snapped pictures and shook hands with students, as well as faculty who knew her before she was considered the world’s best water polo goaltender.

“It was really cool to come back and just know all of the experiences that I had here at Ransom, and how that was the building blocks for who I am today and my career as an Olympic athlete,” she said.

Wearing the gold medal she won in Tokyo and decked out in gear from Team USA, the 27-year-old described competing during a global pandemic.

“I wanted to look to the crowd and see my family, so it was a little bit bittersweet,” she said, “but then I looked to my left and right, and I’m with my family, I’m with my team, the people who have been through this with me for however many years.”

Before reaching for gold, Johnson competed in her high school team, taking home four state titles in water polo and one in swimming.

Even then, she said, her teachers and coaches saw something in her — something she didn’t see in herself.

“They all told me that I could do this for so long, and it took me a lot of time to believe it,” she said. “I definitely didn’t believe it as a 2012 graduate of Ransom Everglades, but eventually I got there, and it’s a process, and it’s cool to have so many people believe in you before you fully believe in yourself.”

Johnson is now paying it forward, reminding this new generation of young water polo players that anything is possible.

As for her next chapter, Johnson said she next plans to head to Greece to play water polo professionally.

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