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BAJAN CULTURE: Top shot Johnson


Ena Thompson

BAJAN CULTURE: Top shot Johnson

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HER GREATEST moment as a national sportswoman isn’t competing in any of the championship games in which she smashed her way into the Caribbean sporting limelight.
For Elizabeth Johnson, it was a friendly game of tennis back in 1986, when she partnered with Wimbledon champion Bjorn Borg of Sweden. This ranks highest in the former star athlete’s recollection of cherished sporting moments.
The first female player to achieve a triple crown in Barbados lawn tennis back in 1972, Johnson humorously remembers playing only two good shots in the doubles game she and Borg won against local champ Sandra Browne and Borg’s coach, while the former tennis star was on the island participating in an exhibition match.
Speaking from her Pirate’s Inn Hotel residence, in Hastings, Christ Church, Johnson reveals to Bajan Culture that contrary to popular belief she never had that killer instinct when it came to sports, but credits her athletic stardom to being an outdoors person and a fortunate natural athlete.
“[In] nearly anything that I try I achieve reasonable success without too much effort. I pick up things very quickly,” she says.
“I had a friend that I used to play squash with, and she was always annoyed that whatever sport I did, I did better than she did.
“So she invited me to play darts, and when I got the double with the first dart, she left,” Johnson recalls with infectious laughter.
Because of her style of playing, determined attitude and composed demeanour on and off the court, Johnson was often compared by her friends to former world No. 1 Australian female tennis player Evonne Goolagong, who was one of the foremost players in the 1970s and early 1980s.
It is no surprise then, that Johnson is one of the few women who achieved the feat of representing the island in three sporting disciplines – hockey, tennis and squash.
The veteran sportswoman’s earliest memories of competition takes her back to teen years, while a student at St Gabriel’s School in the 1960s.
“For some reason, not as many women seemed to play tennis back then. Netball and rounders were the sports for women, or maybe some hockey; but that may have had something to do with the lack of facilities and cost of gear.
“Not many schools had tennis courts and that’s where people got their main exposure to a sport.”
It was while she was a member of the Carlton Club, however, that the former No. 1 seed imprinted her name on local and international lawn tennis and hockey.
She is best known for her fierce forehand stroke, which she used to carry off the women’s singles championship in the Manning, Wilkinson and Challenor-sponsored open grass court lawn tennis tournament, organized by the Barbados Lawn Tennis Association at the Garrison courts back in 1979, and numerous other competitions held throughout the island.
The ever-cheerful Johnson, who is the owner of Pirate’s Inn Hotel, played her last squash game in a Caribbean squash championship held in Jamaica four years ago.
She says that although her interest in the games remains constant, she now watches from the sidelines, but encourages any passionate athlete, no matter the interest, to use the discipline – as she does – as a means of keeping themselves occupied in something positive.
“I think it is a good outlet for them. It gives you a focus, something to do.
“Most people have more time on their hands than they have things to do; so sports is a very useful medium in filling that void.”

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