By Andrew Baldock, PA, Tokyo
Jessica Springsteen hailed the influence of Great Britain’s 2016 Olympic showjumping champion Nick Skelton on her international career after winning a silver medal at Tokyo Equestrian Park.
Springsteen, daughter of rock star Bruce Springsteen, marked her Olympic debut by helping the United States to a team competition podium finish.
Along with colleagues Laura Kraut and Mclain Ward, Springsteen, riding Don Juan van de Donkhoeve, saw Sweden edge home in a jump-off to capture a first Olympic team gold since 1924, winning by a combined team time of 1.30 seconds. Belgium took bronze.
It proved a disappointing night for Great Britain, though, after their first two riders Holly Smith and Harry Charles had 24 penalties between them.
With the team way off medal contention, the decision was taken to withdraw Ben Maher’s individual champion Explosion W.
GB equestrian team leader Richard Waygood said: “Holly and Harry rode with great skill, but this is the pinnacle of Olympic competition, and with 24 faults Team GB will not be in the mix for a podium place.
“Ben and Explosion have shown their world-class calibre in winning individual gold, and we have collectively decided it is in the best interests to save Explosion for another day.”
While Britain reflected on what might have been in the final event after collecting a record-equalling five equestrian medals at one Games, 29-year-old Springsteen lavished praise on Skelton and his partner – United States team-mate Kraut.
Skelton looked on as Springsteen collected four first round penalties before delivering a jump-off clear round, and she said: “It’s about making a plan, and he (Skelton) has so much experience at these championships.
“He knows how it goes, and having someone like that next to you is great. He was helping me all week.
“100 per cent, I am taking everything in that I can from them.
“I have trained with them for many years. I feel I am in the best hands possible going into a big course like this.
“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.
“It is unbelievable. I am so excited. I FaceTimed (home) really quickly, and they were all screaming, all yelling, all smiles and I don’t think they understood a word I said!”
Kraut, meanwhile, paid tribute to Springsteen, adding: “We are a bit like family. At 18, she started to train with myself and Nick. She got her first experience of jumping in Europe and big five-star events.
“Listen, this girl needed no help. The talent was there from the word go, and it is no surprise to me she is here tonight.”
Maher, meanwhile, reflected on a testing day for Britain after they were unable to threaten at the competition’s business-end.
“We knew it was going to be tough, it was a tough course and there were a lot of horse-rider combinations making mistakes,” he said.
“Holly and Harry are young riders and have ridden incredibly tonight, but unfortunately it has not gone our way as a team and Explosion’s welfare is paramount for me.
After the completion of the first two rounds in the jumping team final, the decision has been made to withdraw @TeamGB’s final combination, @BenMaher1 and Explosion W. https://t.co/xPN5mRFdA3#EquestrianJumping #TeamGB #Tokyo2020 #ThisIsWhatMakesUs #UnitedByEmotion pic.twitter.com/czcJW2tsJR
— British Equestrian (@BritEquestrian) August 7, 2021
“I am not a quitter, but we were an extremely long way off medal contention. We have done everything we can for Team GB this week, but his welfare is a priority.
“He goes back as an Olympic champion. I always knew he was an incredible horse. This decision is based purely on the team as a whole.
“We had a discussion as a team, and the horse’s welfare becomes a priority, and this way he goes home one round less and saved for another day when we are in medal contention.”