The horse and rider briefly entered the field as the opening bell rang, and then they stopped, jumping after jump, accelerating to the water hazard in the middle of the ring. They were fast and clean until the second to last set of the jump, when Don cut a pole, then cruised into the finish in just less than a second from the optimum time of 89 seconds.
The performance placed Springsteen in 24th place, with 24 contestants left. The top 30, including ties, will move on. Scoring is calculated through a combination of the time taken to drop the poles and the penalty points. Springsteen had a penalty-free time, but received four penalty points for a pole knock.
A waiting game began. Every rider with a clean, fast ride pushed Springsteen further down the rankings.
In the press area, as she finished 25th and then 27th, Springsteen said that she miscalculated the distance between the jump where Don had cut the pole and the one before that. He noted how many fine horses and riders were left. He felt that it was going down the wrong path.
And yet he luxuriates in a spotlight brighter than anything he has ever experienced.
“It’s not only my first Olympics, it’s my first championships,” she said. “Something was going on inside me.”
She said that her companions, namely Farrington, had helped her. And Don, she said, is witty and friendly, and pounces on him when she walks into the barn.
Five riders came from the end of the elimination, when Mackel van der Veluten of the Netherlands posted a clean ride and sent Springsteen into a tie for 31st, a spot due to a knocked pole in Thursday’s final. No American rider advanced. There’s fodder for a sad ballad somewhere.
But, Bruce, know this also, from father to father from 6,700 miles away: Your girl did well.