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Is this Jessica Springsteen’s year to make the Olympic team?

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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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Beezie Madden, U.S.’ most decorated female equestrian, to change focus after Tokyo Olympics

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Beezie Madden, the most decorated U.S. female equestrian in Olympic history, announced that she will be changing her competition focus after the Tokyo Games, increasing her efforts in developing young horses and riders.

Madden, one of four riders on U.S. Equestrian’s early Olympic team short list, will continue the selection process for Tokyo, which includes two observation events between May and June. The team is expected to be announced on June 23.

While Madden won’t be actively seeking any future Olympics or international competitions representing the U.S., she hasn’t ruled anything out in the future despite her change in focus.

“I don’t exclude any of that for sure,” she said. “If I happen to still have a horse of the quality, and it looks like we could be a combination to help the U.S. team in any way, in any competition, I’m certainly not going to turn it down. But I would say it’s unlikely that will happen because it’s hard enough to make the team when it is your main focus.”

After Tokyo, Madden will still compete, but she’ll play a bigger role with John Madden Sales, the training and sales business she and her husband, John Madden, run in Cazenovia, N.Y. and Wellington, Fla.

“My focus is just going to switch more from my part of the sport to a little more of the business part of the sport and also helping develop young horses and young riders to the championship level,” she said.

For John Madden Sales, developing a horse typically means jumping training that starts around 4 years old and giving them competition experience all over the world. Horses must be at least 9 years old to compete in show jumping at the Olympics.

In addition, Madden currently has a handful of students who compete in high-level competitions, but she is looking to increase that number and potentially teach clinics and open up opportunities for a working student.

“We look forward to helping a few talented young riders grow in their horsemanship and Grand Prix careers,” she said in a statement on Facebook. “If we can serve the US Team by being a small part of preparing the next generation of horses and horsemen, we suspect those victories will feel just as sweet as the ones we stood in the ring for.”

Madden, 56, is a four-time Olympian and four-time medalist. At the 2004 Athens Games, she took team gold aboard Authentic, one of her most successful horses, in her Olympic debut. Four years later, she and Authentic helped defend the U.S.’ team title in Beijing and also won individual bronze.

After a disappointing London Games in 2012 where the team finished sixth and she and Coral Reef Via Volo were eliminated in individual competition, she secured a team silver in Rio with Cortes ‘C.’ Madden became the oldest female U.S. Olympic medalist in any sport since 1904.

In 2018, she became the oldest rider to win the World Cup Final at age 54 aboard Breitling LS and was the traveling reserve at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, N.C. She also won the World Cup Final in 2013 with her horse Simon.

The U.S. qualified for the Tokyo Olympic show jumping team event by winning the 2018 World Equestrian Games.

As the No. 1 ranked U.S. rider based on average points earned, Madden is one of the first four riders on the short list for Tokyo. By April 20, the short list will be expanded to 10 riders who will go on to compete in two observation events.

Madden is also a five-time Pan-Am medalist, most recently picking up team and individual bronze in 2019 with Breitling LS, and a four-time World Equestrian Games medalist (double silver in 2006 and double bronze in 2014). She was the first woman to pass the $1 million earnings mark in show jumping.

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Beezie, John and all of Team JMS want to first take a moment to thank all our friends, fans, and supporters whom have…

Posted by Beezie Madden / John Madden Sales, Inc on Saturday, February 15, 2020

Japanese athlete’s bid to become oldest Olympian in history still alive

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Hiroshi Hoketsu, a 78-year-old equestrian, was included on a list published Friday of 17 dressage riders bidding for any of three spots on the Japanese Olympic team in Tokyo.

The Tokyo native Hoketsu is six years older than the oldest Olympian in history, Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn, who earned a team silver medal at 72 at the 1920 Antwerp Games. That age list does not include Olympic art competitions.

Hoketsu’s bid appears a long shot, given his International Equestrian Federation (FEI) profile does not list any results since 2012. Japanese media reported that Hoketsu has not met minimum entry requirements, which he must do by May 24.

The highest-ranked Japanese dressage rider is No. 142 in the world. Japan gets an automatic team place at the Olympics as host nation.

Hoketsu competed at three Olympics — the other time Tokyo hosted in 1964, then 44 years later in Beijing and again in London in 2012. Hoketsu was the oldest athlete across all sports at the Olympics in 2008 and 2012.

In between his first and second Olympics, Hoketsu earned a graduate degree from Duke and completed a career as a pharmaceutical executive.

He was not named to Japan’s team for the Rio Olympics after his horse fell ill, according to Japanese reports in May 2016.

The Japanese Olympic team will be named in mid-June.

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