Reed Kessler, equestrian and Armonk native, making Olympic history
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In equestrian show jumping -- where a fraction of a second can be the difference between winning and losing -- timing is everything.
Reed Kessler apparently had good timing from the day she was born.
The Armonk native celebrated her 18th birthday July 9, beating the cutoff date to qualify for the Olympics in London by less than three weeks. When Kessler climbs aboard her horse, Cylana, on Aug. 4, she will become the youngest U.S. show jumper ever to compete in the Summer Games.
"It's a great feeling," said Kessler, who moved with her family from Armonk to Lexington, Ky., earlier in 2012. "I've had so many kids reach out to me and say, 'You're an inspiration, and we love riding. In a few years, that could be me.'
"It's great. It's a sport where most people are in their 30s or 40s or 50s when they're successful, so it's a fun story, and it's great publicity for our sport," she said during a recent phone interview.
Kessler is a "baby" indeed compared with her USA teammates. She is half the age of the next-youngest rider, Brewster's McLain Ward, who is 36. And she is 34 years younger than veteran Rich Fellers, 52. Beezie Madden, 48, of Cazenovia in Madison County, rounds out the squad.
Some observers have done the math and already are suggesting that Kessler could be a fixture in the Olympics for decades to come. The recent high school graduate, however, said she's not looking beyond this year's Olympics, noting that she's not satisfied with simply earning her way on to the squad.
"Now it's about winning," Kessler said. "Now I'm on the team. It's hard to say that I'm going to go there and I'm going to medal among all of the amazing riders. ... But now the plan is to go there and win. If I didn't think I had a chance to bring home a medal, I wouldn't be going."
If Kessler seems more seasoned than the vast majority of show jumpers her age, there's good reason for it: Both her parents have competed in show jumping on the amateur level for the past 30 years. She also grew up caring for horses with her mother on their Armonk farm.
"It's great to have someone to talk through problems with and to come out of the ring and be able to talk to your parents about it," Kessler said. "And they understand, and they can contribute to the conversation. It's made our family really close."
Kessler's sudden rise to stardom in show jumping has come as no surprise to her teammate Ward, who has known the phenom since she was a young girl.
"She's a very talented girl and was beautifully managed and has a great support team behind her," said Ward, who won gold medals with the 2004 and 2008 U.S. teams. "I know she's going to be a great asset to the team."