Jessica Springsteen climbed to second in U.S. Equestrian show jumping rankings this winter, her highest standing in years, at an opportune time. The Olympics are in four months.
Springsteen, the 28-year-old daughter of rocker Bruce Springsteen, hopes to make a finalist list of at least 10 rider-horse combinations for the Olympics. The last cut for the Games will be to three entries plus an alternate eligible for the team event in Tokyo.
In 2012, Springsteen was the 14th-ranked rider in the final standings when the four-rider Olympic team was announced. In 2016, she didn’t make the finalist list of 10 after her top horse was sidelined by leg tendon problems. two years after rising to No. 2 in the U.S. rankings.
“My dream is always to represent the United States in championships, so I am definitely always working toward that,” Springsteen said after winning a February competition, according to the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post. “I feel like I have a really good group of horses jumping great right now.”
However, the Olympic team will not necessarily be chosen straight from the aforementioned rankings. Instead, the finalists will be evaluated at competitions between May 1-June 21 and the Olympic team chosen via discretion using criteria including other recent performances.
“Jessie has as good of a chance as anybody right now,” NBC Olympics equestrian analyst Melanie Smith Taylor said. “With everybody, it’ll be up in the air depending on how the horses are going into the final trials. In this sport, the horses are such a huge component. Horses can get hurt. Horses can be unsound. You don’t really know until the last month or so before the Olympics who’s peaked and who’s really ready to go.”
The first four finalists were due to be named from a U.S. ranking list on Dec. 20. Springsteen was sixth on that list. The top four were Olympic veterans Beezie Madden, Kent Farrington, McLain Ward and Laura Kraut, all at least 10 years older than Springsteen in a sport where riders in their 50s can earn medals.
It might be difficult to break up such an experienced top group. Then again, Smith Taylor noted that the U.S. took two riders without Olympic experience to the 2018 World Equestrian Games — Devin Ryan and Adrienne Sternlicht — along with Kraut and Ward.
“Beezie’s in the No. 1 spot, probably followed by McLain,” Smith Taylor said. “Kent Farrington doesn’t really have an Olympic horse right now. He has horses that are winners, but he doesn’t have anything new that’s really knocking the socks off. Jessie, or even any of those younger riders, they have a chance.”
Springsteen was recently part of a victorious U.S. team at a Nations Cup stop in Florida, along with Madden, Kraut and Margie Engle, the U.S.’ fifth-ranked rider.
“Jessie was the leadoff rider. They put a lot of faith in her going first, and she really came through,” Smith Taylor said. “She has really moved up, and her level of riding has really been impressive this last year. She has really become a winner.”
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