Jessica Springsteen

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U.S. Olympic team qualifying, selection races to watch in 2020

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A look at some intriguing races for U.S. Olympic team spots as the final six months of qualifying begin …

Basketball
Men’s Guards

The last four seasons, every guard on every All-NBA team was an American. Thirteen different players combined to take up those spots. All 13 are part of USA Basketball’s national team pool. Maybe five will go to Tokyo. The group to choose from includes those with Olympic experience such as James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson and Russell Westbrook. And those without, like Stephen CurryDamian Lillard and Kemba Walker.

Beach Volleyball
Kerri Walsh Jennings/Brooke Sweat vs. Kelly Claes/Sarah Sponcil

Two U.S. women’s beach teams will qualify for Tokyo. April Ross and Alix Klineman are comfortably in first place in the standings. The triple Olympic champion Walsh Jennings and new partner Sweat are second in Olympic qualifying more than halfway through, but third-place Claes and Sponcil are within striking distance. The race likely will not be decided before the last stretch of four- and five-star tournaments in late May and early June.

Equestrian
Women’s Jumping

Could this be Jessica Springsteen‘s year? The daughter of rocker Bruce Springsteen recently cracked the top four of the U.S. rider rankings for the first time in at least two and a half years, though she is seventh among Americans in the international rankings. The U.S. Olympic team of three riders (plus an alternate) will be chosen in June. The usual suspects — Kent Farrington, Beezie Madden and McLain Ward, all at least 10 years older than the 28-year-old Springsteen — remain at or near the top of the rankings.

Fencing
Men’s Foil

The U.S. boasts four of the world’s top 10 — Race Imboden (2), Gerek Meinhardt (6), Alexander Massialas (7) and Nick Itkin (10) — plus 2012 and 2016 Olympian Miles Chamley-Watson. But only three per nation can compete individually at the Olympics. The top three in national team point standings come April go to Tokyo. The U.S. is looking for its first men’s Olympic fencing title since 1904.

Golf
Tiger Woods vs. Dustin Johnson vs. Justin Thomas vs. Gary Woodland vs. Brooks Koepka vs. Others

The U.S. will qualify the maximum four men’s golfers for Tokyo, but the names are unknown to start 2020. The Official World Golf Ranking after the U.S. Open in June determines the Olympic field. The current OWGR (which includes results that aren’t part of Olympic qualification) has the top four as Koepka, Thomas, Johnson and Woods. But golf rankings guru @VC606’s projection, which excludes results before the Olympic qualifying window, has Woods in fifth place and Johnson in sixth, replaced by Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay. Every result could be critical this winter and spring, making Woods’ decision to skip this week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions (with its limited field and guaranteed ranking points with no cut) even more noteworthy.

Gymnastics
Laurie Hernandez vs. Newcomers

Assuming Simone Biles leads the four-woman U.S. team (plus two women in individual events), there is one other returning Olympian hoping to join her. Hernandez hasn’t competed since taking balance beam silver in Rio but plans to make a late Tokyo run. Four years ago, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas became the first women to make back-to-back Olympic teams since 2000, but each of them came back a year earlier than Hernandez. Gymnasts in Hernandez’s way include members of the last two world championships teams (like Morgan Hurd and Sunisa Lee) and first-year seniors like Kayla DiCello, looking to repeat Hernandez’s feat in 2016 of making an Olympic team at age 16.

Shooting
Women’s Skeet

Four different U.S. women won the four world titles in this event between 2014-18, including a medals sweep in 2018. Five Americans make up the top 14 in the world right now, and a sixth, 18-year-old Austen Smith, won the first stage of the Olympic trials in September. Two women will qualify for Tokyo by the end of the trials process this spring. The biggest name is 40-year-old Kim Rhode, looking to become the first person to earn a medal at seven straight Olympics in any sport.

Soccer
Women’s Forwards

World Cup rosters are 23 players. Olympic rosters are 18. The U.S. must cut from its world champion team of last summer, putting stalwart goal-scorers at risk. Chief among them is Alex Morgan, who hopes to return from an April due date for a third Olympics. Then there’s Carli Lloyd, who at 37 is trying to become the oldest U.S. Olympic soccer player in history. Other thirtysomethings in the mix: Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Christen Press, plus Mallory Pugh, who made the Rio Olympics at age 18. The last two Olympic teams each had four forwards.

Swimming
Chase Kalisz vs. Ryan Lochte vs. Carson Foster

Lochte wants to make a fifth Olympic team, at age 35, in his patented 200m individual medley. To do that, he must take down either the 2017 World champion Kalisz or the 18-year-old Foster, who has been breaking Michael Phelps‘ national age-group records since he was 10. Two swimmers per individual event make the Olympic team at June’s trials. There are other potential spoilers in the 200m IM, including 2018 breakout star Michael Andrew and Abrahm Devine, who made the last two world teams. One thing’s for certain: There will be a new Olympic champion with the retirement of Michael Phelps, who won this event in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016.

Tennis
Madison Keys vs. Coco Gauff vs. Venus Williams vs. Sloane Stephens vs. Others

The U.S. gets four singles spots per gender at the Olympics. Qualifying is via ATP and WTA rankings with the cutoff after the French Open. More than halfway through, Serena Williams comfortably leads via Wimbledon and U.S. Open runners-up (3,185 points). She’s followed by Sofia Kenin (1,941), Alison Riske (1,713) and Madison Keys (1,537). Then comes another drop-off to the current alternates, led by Coco Gauff (709). Venus Williams, eyeing a fifth Olympics when she will be 40, is in ninth place (and just withdrew from her 2020 season opener). Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, is 11th. Any player who doesn’t make singles could still be chosen for doubles, where Venus is an intriguing option.

Track and Field
Women’s Marathon

One of the hardest U.S. Olympic track and field event teams to make will be one of the first to be decided. Six of the nine fastest Americans in history are expected to start the marathon trials on Feb. 29 in Atlanta. Headliners include 2018 Boston Marathon winner Des Linden and American 10,000m record holder Molly Huddle. Only three get to go to Tokyo, while the rest likely crowd the 10,000m field at the track trials four months later in Oregon.

Wrestling
Jordan Burroughs vs. Kyle Dake

Burroughs, the 2012 Olympic 74kg champion, and Dake, the 2018 and 2019 World champion at the non-Olympic 79kg weight class, are expected to make up the most intense final of the Olympic wrestling trials from April 4-5 at Penn State. Only one wrestler per weight class qualifies for Tokyo. Burroughs has made every Olympic and world team at 74kg since 2011. But Dake, who avoided Burroughs by moving up in weight in 2016, represents his toughest challenger yet.

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Jessica Springsteen’s confidence rises with ‘most talented horse’ of her life

Jessica Springsteen
International Equestrian Federation
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Jessica Springsteen believes she found the horse that can help her accomplish long-term show jumping goals, such as qualifying for her first Longines FEI World Cup™ Final, World Equestrian Games and Olympics.

Springsteen, the daughter of famous rocker Bruce Springsteen, has been riding Cynar VA for about one year, not an incredibly long time, but is already gushing.

“He’s definitely the most talented horse that I’ve ever had,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Springsteen has been competitive in U.S. jumping for several years despite her youth (she turns 25 on Dec. 30). She was the 14th-ranked rider in the final standings when the four-rider 2012 Olympic team was announced.

By April 2014, Springsteen had risen to No. 2 on the U.S. Equestrian rider/horse list before the horse, Vindicat W, was sidelined by leg tendon problems.

The injury severely harmed Springsteen’s Rio Olympic chances as her rider/horse ranking plummeted. This past April, she did not make the short list of 10 rider/horse combinations for U.S. Olympic team consideration.

Still, Springsteen is younger than all but two U.S. Olympic jumping riders from the last four Games. And she still has plenty of promise.

In September, Springsteen won her first five-star Grand Prix, the biggest victory of her career. She’s now fifth in the U.S. jumping rankings. The top four riders are all Olympians and all at least 10 years older.

Springsteen hoped to reach the Longines FEI World Cup™ Final in Omaha in April, but her results in early qualifiers have not been as strong as she hoped.

Springsteen and Cynar VA placed seventh in Toronto on Wednesday, while U.S. Olympians McLain Ward and Kent Farrington went one-two, followed by four non-Americans.

“Even if I don’t make it next year [to the final], there’s always that year after,” she said, emphasizing that Cynar VA is still a “newer ride” for her.

Springsteen can’t possibly put her finger on 2020 Olympic chances so far out, especially given what happened in the last cycle.

“It’s so hard in this sport because everything goes into timing,” she said. “You have to have the right horse at the right time, and you have to be performing really well. The horse I have right now definitely has the ability. He’s a true championship horse.”

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Jessica Springsteen, Georgina Bloomberg face tough road to making Olympics

Jessica Springsteen
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Making the U.S. Olympic equestrian team is much about timing, and neither Jessica Springsteen nor Georgina Bloomberg has been fortunate in that respect in recent months.

The show jumpers are entered in this week’s Longines Masters of Los Angeles among several Olympic hopefuls, including three of the four members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic show jumping team.

But neither Springsteen nor Bloomberg is riding her best horse in L.A. Springsteen’s Vindicat W and Bloomberg’s Juvina have been hampered by leg tendon problems for months and may not be able to compete again until next year, if at all before the Rio Games.

So Springsteen, daughter of rocker Bruce Springsteen, and Bloomberg, daughter of former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, add that adversity on top of trying to beat out more experienced Americans by next summer to make a four-rider Olympic team in an event where the U.S. quartet won gold in 2004 and 2008.

“So much depends on having the right horse and having everything working in your favor at the right time, your horse being peaked and your horse being sound,” said Melanie Smith-Taylor, a 1984 U.S. Olympic show jumping team champion who has covered the last seven Olympics for NBC.

Springsteen, 23, in particular looked like a hopeful for Rio 2016 even before the London 2012 Olympics, when she was a teenager showing promise in a sport where athletes in their 40s, 50s and even 60s have won medals. She’s been competing since she was a kindergartener.

She was the 14th-ranked rider in the final standings when the four-rider 2012 Olympic team was announced. Springsteen’s farm purchased Vindicat W, which a Brit piloted to Olympic gold in London, one month after the Games. By April 2014, she and Vindicat W were ranked No. 2 on the U.S. Equestrian rider/horse list.

The complete 2016 U.S. Olympic show jumping team selection procedures haven’t been published yet, but it’s anticipated that the team of four riders and horses will be chosen from a list of at least 10 rider/horse combinations finalized in April.

That list of at least 10 will be made up primarily of riders and horses whose competition results rank them high on lists such as the one Springsteen and Vindicat W were No. 2 on in April 2014.

With Vindicat W out, Springsteen’s ranked No. 51 and No. 58 on that list’s most recent update last Friday, though she won the most recent rider of the week honor following a win on another horse in a Vienna, Austria, event earlier this month.

This came after Springsteen became a Gucci model and was named by one British outlet as one of the world’s 50 most marketable athletes over the next three years.

Springsteen’s confidence was higher last spring, when she had Vindicat W and was among 10 finalists for the U.S. team for the World Equestrian Games, the sport’s prestigious, once-every-four-years event. Springsteen did not make that team, and the U.S. won bronze without her in Normandy, France.

“It really felt like the Olympics was the next goal,” Springsteen said in a recent phone interview, before the Vienna victory. “It’s definitely a disappointment to not be in contention for that right now, to not have a horse I can compete with. Right now, I’m looking for a new horse.”

Bloomberg, 32, came back from December 2013 childbirth to win the Central Park Grand Prix in September 2014 riding her top horse, Juvina.

She returned to headline the event last weekend but without Juvina.

“There is, in my opinion, no horse that’s more talented than she is in the world. It’s always the best one that’s injured,” Bloomberg joked in Central Park before last week’s event. “That’s the way it works. [Juvina] would be sort of my first choice for Rio, and it does not look like she will be back for next year. Obviously I’m hoping, but I have a couple of other horses that are stepping up and hopefully will surprise me. It’s still something I will work my ass off to try to accomplish.”

Bloomberg was the fourth-ranked U.S. rider in March, when Juvina first suffered the tendon injury.

She was part of the U.S. team at the Pan American Games in July in Toronto, where she was the third-best American out of four in the individual jumping competition.

Now, she is ranked eighth and ninth on two other U.S. Equestrian rankings lists where Springsteen is 23rd and 21st, respectively. They’re looking up at the likes of Olympic team event champions McLain Ward and Beezie Madden, who will be 40 and 52 years old, respectively, come Rio 2016.

“It’s hard in our sport because obviously the rider’s only 50 percent,” said Bloomberg, who in her career has suffered a concussion from a fall and broken her back, collarbone, an ankle and wrist. “You’ll see a lot of talented riders that work very hard and are very deserving but will never make the Olympic Games just because they don’t have the right horse at the right time.”

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