Jessica Springsteen will become an Olympian in equestrian jumping before an empty arena Tuesday at the Tokyo Olympics, taking the famous family name to new frontiers while her biggest supporters watch from their home in New Jersey.
Springsteen, 29, will realize a lifelong dream when she leads her 12-year-old stallion Don Juan van de Donkhoeve out into Equestrian Park and represents the U.S. She missed out on Rio 2016 and was an alternate four years earlier in London.
Her father is singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen. Jessica was born in 1991, arriving in the middle of his E Street Bands' hiatus as the family moved from New Jersey to California, with Bruce testing his creative abilities with the release of albums such as "Human Touch" and "Lucky Town."
Now, nearly 30 years later, that ambition has passed on to Jessica, who is currently No. 14 in the world in FEI's show jumping rankings.
"She has said early on that she didn't want to be known as Bruce Springsteen's daughter alone," Olympic gold medalist Melanie Smith Taylor told the New York Post. "She wanted to forge her own path. She's really doing that. She is very much at the elite level of the sport because of her performance."
Springsteen is the youngest member of the U.S. team, which includes Kent Farrington, McLain Ward and Laura Kraut. Jessica was just a year old when Kraut, one of her idols, made her Olympic debut at Barcelona in 1992.
Bruce and his wife, Patti Scialfa -- who is a member of the E Street Band -- returned to New Jersey in the early '90s in a bid to maintain their privacy and reconnect with their roots. The couple bought the 368-acre Stone Hill Farm in Colts Neck, which happened to be opposite the well-regarded Beacon Hill Show Stables.
Stone Hill had goats, chickens, pigs and two ostriches, but it was the horses that captured the imagination of Jessica, who has described herself as an introvert growing up. She started riding at 4 and owned her first pony two years later.
"I started riding when I was really little," Jessica told People Magazine. "My mom had always wanted to ride, so when we moved to New Jersey she started taking lessons."
Before long, she started show jumping and competing, winning the 2008 ASPCA Maclay Finals and 2009 WEF Excellence in Equitation Championship. She started on the Grand Prix show jumping circuit, the sport's highest level, in 2010.
Jessica traveled with the team to London in 2012, but she didn't get a chance to compete. She then took the 2014 American Gold Cup and won her first five-star event in 2016, but it wasn't enough to make the cut for the Rio Games.
"It is easy to get defeated, but you have to brush it off and move on," she told World of Showjumping in 2019.
Jessica is the middle of Bruce and Patti's three children, with Evan born in 1990 and Samuel arriving in 1994. All three featured as backup singers on Bruce's 2002 song "Down in the Hole," but each Springsteen child has pursued different paths. Evan followed in his father's footsteps and is a singer-songwriter, while Samuel was sworn in as a New Jersey firefighter in 2020.
Jessica received a psychology degree from Duke in 2014 and went all in on show jumping.
Over the five years between Rio 2016 and the delayed Tokyo Olympics, she progressed up the ranks and started working with her current horse in 2019. The pairing put her in the Olympic radar when it helped the U.S. jumping team win the FEI Jumping Nations Cup USA in 2020. She would add her own individual victory in the K 4* Grand Prix Hubside Jumping Tour event June 13 in France.
Her place in the Olympics was confirmed in early July, much to the delight of her and her parents.
"They [Bruce and Patti] obviously found their passion when they were younger with music, and they recognize how hard it is," Jessica told the Robb Report. "Some people go through their entire life without finding something that they really love, so they just kind of really pushed me. They know that you just have to keep going. And they've really instilled that in me."
Parenthood taught Bruce Springsteen the importance of being still. He learned the importance of soaking in experiences. In a podcast with Barack Obama, in an episode called "Fatherhood," they talk through about being a dad changed their outlook on life. For the man nicknamed "The Boss" it meant he'd no longer undertake long tours. After having their first child Evan in 1990, he remembered a moment where it became clear and they decided a three-week tour would be okay, but anything longer was a bad idea. "I experienced fearless love for the first time in my life," Bruce said on his podcast. "I never knew I'd be capable of feeling that."
This year, she has split time between Europe, having moved to Valkenswaard in the Netherlands in 2015, and Florida. She and her teammates have a decent shot at gold in the team event at Tokyo. Individual medals will come to the riders who keep their cool navigating water jumps, parallel rails and triple bars.
"There really is no other sport like it, and I think the connection you develop with the horses is something really special," Jessica said. "That's what has drawn me to it since I was little, and that is what I still love the most about it: how in sync you can be with your horse. Once you've created that partnership, the horses can read what you are thinking before you even ask them to do it."
Given this is a sport that some athletes continue competing in at the highest level well into their 50s, Jessica will have further shots at Olympics in the future. But her Tokyo 2020 qualification adds a new dimension to the Springsteen name.
With Bruce's Broadway show in a month-long hiatus, there will only be one Springsteen with their name in lights over the next week, and that's Jessica's.
"Throughout my career, representing my country has been my goal, and so to be doing so at the Olympics, it's a huge honor," Jessica said. "I couldn't be more excited."