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U.S. Women's Water Polo Wins Olympic Gold, Aided By A Powerhouse Goalie

U.S. water polo player Ashleigh Johnson defends a shot during the gold medal match at the Tokyo Olympics.
Marcel ter Bals
Getty Images
U.S. water polo player Ashleigh Johnson defends a shot during the gold medal match at the Tokyo Olympics.

TOKYO — The U.S. women's water polo team has won gold for the third Olympics in a row, handily beating Spain in the gold medal match thanks to aggressive offense and a goalie who made block after block.

Ashleigh Johnson, the first African American woman to make a U.S. Olympic water polo team, blocked 11 out of 15 shots from Spain during her time in goal – a rate of 73%. The main goalie for Spain blocked 19% of the shots, and the final score was 14 to 5.

"I'm so proud of how we performed for each other today and for the people that we represent," Johnson said after the match. "I hope everyone was watching and I hope they find something in our performance today, because we gave everything that we had."

Johnson, who is considered one of the best goalies in the world, repeatedly lunged out of the water and across the goal to block shots, all while treading water.

"That's why she's the best," U.S. Coach Adam Krikorian said of Johnson's performance. "She just gave us a ton of confidence. 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."

Nine Team USA players scored against Spain, including Madeline Musselman, who had three goals.

After the win, it didn't take long for a Team USA coach to get pushed in the water by the jubilant team. The rest of the coaching staff leapt in after, laughing and hugging with the players in the middle of the pool.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.