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Springsteen hits high notes on rocky ride to success

China Daily | Updated: 2022-07-04 09:37
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Jessica Springsteen, on board Hungry Heart, clears a fence during the Longines Paris Eiffel Jumping event at the Champs de Mars near the Eiffel Tower in the French capital on June 26. REUTERS

Jessica Springsteen has made a success out of a career that could not be further removed from that of her rock legend father Bruce and yet the Olympic silver medalist show jumper said that at times she feared she would never make it.

The difference in their worlds was highlighted two weekends ago.

At about the same time on Saturday, Jessica, 31, competed in the Grand Prix at the Longines Paris Eiffel Jumping event, to the stunning backdrop of the Eiffel Tower, while 'The Boss' was making a surprise appearance at the Glastonbury Festival in England supporting fellow legend Paul McCartney.

She had a busy weekend competing in at least six competitions on her two horses, RMF Zecilie and Hungry Heart-the latter a name that will resonate with her father's fans.

Springsteen, though, has been very much the author of her successful career in show jumping-a rare sport where men and women compete on an equal basis-reaching the zenith thus far with the silver in the team competition at the Olympics last year in Tokyo.

That came at the third time of asking. In 2012 in London, she was an alternate rider for the team and then missed out on the 2016 Games.

However, having battled her way to the top, she knows that it is a sport which has many pitfalls.

"The sport is always challenging, there are always ups and downs and you really have to stick with it," she said. "There have been many moments where I felt like my aspirations of making a championship team were so far away and that I would never get there.

"It's so important to trust the process and stay determined and be patient.

"It is definitely not easy, but there's no better feeling than when it all comes together."

She certainly had a bumpy introduction to riding aged 6 as her pony tried to gain the upper hand.

"Yes, my first pony Shamrock would always spin and buck and was quite cheeky," she said.

"I think I learned a lot from every horse I have ridden. My first pony definitely taught me resilience!"

'Strong mindset'

Springsteen admits it took a while for her to gain the confidence required for the stiff challenge of guiding a powerful horse around an arena packed with obstacles to jump.

"I was quite nervous when I was younger, and it took me a lot of time to become comfortable even jumping," she said.

"Since I started so young, I really took my time at every level and waited to start jumping bigger fences until I felt really confident, which I think was important for me.

"Every time I moved up to new divisions, I was really excited and eager."

At 31, Springsteen would in other sports be entering the final stages of her career, but-as Britain's Nick Skelton showed when winning Olympic individual gold aged 58-show jumping is ageless.

Springsteen, though, says a big reason for the longevity of so many riders is down to their love of horses and adapting to their different demands.

"It's all about the relationship you have with your horse-every horse has a different style and certain type of ride they prefer," she said.

"It's not about how physically strong you are, it's about being sensitive to your horse and figuring out what makes them jump their best.

"Being able to work with them every day is truly a dream for me.

"And I feel really grateful that I compete in a sport that you can do for many, many years. That's really rare."

This relationship between horse and rider has been helped in Springsteen's case by her having studied psychology.

"I've continued to read sports psychology books as well which I find really helpful," she said.

"I think having a strong mindset is so important.

"If I wasn't riding, yes, perhaps I would have continued studying psychology and doing something in that field."

AFP

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