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Jessica Springsteen: America’s rising equestrian star
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Jessica Springsteen remembers attending a show-jumping event growing up in New Jersey, when she dreamed of reaching the sport’s highest level but also understood how long it might be even if she did. "It’s going to take me forever to get there," she thought then.
"It just seemed so, so far away," she says.
If anything, the goal was even further away than the young rider imagined. And yet Springsteen, who is in Tokyo as an Olympic show jumper, has reached it far earlier than most.
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Springsteen, 29 years old and the No. 14-ranked jumper in the world, isn’t just the youngest member of the American contingent. She’s far younger than most of her peers. The average age of the other top-15 riders in the world: 39.
She has begun in these Olympic Games riding her horse, Don Juan van de Donkhoeve, with the individual competition beginning Wednesday and the team competition starting Friday. Equestrian jumping involves the rider taking a horse over various obstacles on a course, and the same instincts that told the young Springsteen it could take forever to get here underpin why her presence on Team USA is so remarkable.
Springsteen has jumped to the top of her sport at an abnormally early age. That is also why it is so competitive to make these Olympic teams. Equestrian jumpers are older because they can compete for decades—so long that the riders someone like Springsteen once admired and learned from can become teammates, with an age gap that would never be usually seen in major American team sports.