Jessica Springsteen came within a split second of bossing the Olympic Team Showjumping event, when her USA side were beaten to the gold medal by Sweden in the tensest of shoot outs. The daughter of Bruce and his muse Patti Schiaffi, she delivered a perfect tune in the arena, accruing only one penalty on the way to getting her hands on a silver medal. And importantly in this event, unlike her father she did not hang around for hours in front of her audience: she was over and done within a matter of seconds.
“I Facetimed them really quickly,” the 29 year old said of her parents’ reaction to her achievement. “They were screaming; I couldn’t understand anything that they were saying. It was all smiles. I saw the Team USA gear they were wearing. I couldn’t work out what they were shouting, but I just know they are so excited.”
There is surely a song in that. From Team GB meanwhile, a hugely successful Olympic equestrian programme, in which they had recorded a medal in every event bar this, closed with a whimper rather than a bang. Ben Maher withdrew from the latter stages of the event when it became clear his team were about as far from the podium as they were from home. After two mistake-ridden rounds from Holly Smith and Harry Charles, Britain were sitting ninth out of ten competing nations. Unless all the other riders forsook their horses and mounted a JCB, ploughing through all the fences, there was no hope of a sixth British equestrian medal in this bullion-delivering games. So Maher decided not to enter on his horse Explosion W, to keep him fresh for further challenges to come.
By then all eyes were on the three USA participants. Or rather on one in particular. The British team seemed to have some pretty impressive progenitors; Charles’s father Peter won gold in this event at London. But here was the offspring of an altogether more celebrated dynasty. One so celebrated that outside the arena before the event a gaggle of Japanese Boss fans, decked out in Born In The USA t-shirts, had gathered in the hope of catching a word with Springsteen (and the word presumably was Broooooooos).
And when she did come to ride, she looked as calm and composed as her parents facing 80,000 screaming fans at Wembley. Intriguingly watching her attentively was Nick Skelton, the brilliant rider who won gold for Britain in Rio. He is the partner of Laura Kraut, one of the three American riders and, while he was not born in the USA, he was wearing a Team USA shirt. He has been giving Springsteen the benefit of his experience for nearly a decade.
"I have trained with them for many years, so to have them by my side tonight is unbelievable, and I feel I am in the best hands possible going into a big course like this,” Springsteen said of Skelton and Kraut. "They have been there, they've done that, they are just such incredibly accomplished riders, so I feel grateful to have them by my side."
By the time Springsteen had delivered her round, Britain were already finished. Riding first, Smith, the first woman in the show jumping team in 45 years since Debbie Johnsey in Montreal, scattered poles, hit the water jump and ended up with 16 penalty points. Then Charles, needing to complete a clear round to restore any hope to his team, did little better, picking up 10 penalties. No wonder Maher decided it was all over.
With Britain withdrawing, the medals were to be decided between France, Belgium, USA and Sweden. USA’s Ward McLain went round with just four faults to guarantee the team a medal. But then Malin Baryard-Johnsson did something she had not done all week and knocked over a pole. It meant if the last French rider Penelope LePrevost could go round relatively clear, the gold would have a Gallic tint. But she had a refusal midway through her round, leaving the USA and Sweden tied at the top and Belgium sneaking into third.
So we had a jump off for gold. There was now a darkness on the edge of Tokyo, and, under the floodlights, Springsteen again went clean and clear. But so did everyone else. And in the end, Sweden's Peder Fredricson, silver medallist in the individual event both here and in Rio, shed his reputation for always finishing second, and went round sufficiently speedily to land gold. Springsteen nonetheless was beaming: silver was a magnificent return for someone experiencing their first Olympics.
“It was wild,” she said. “It’s unbelievable, I’m so, so excited.”
As the banner flourished by the Boss fans outside the arena insisted, she really was born to jump.