When the world’s attention turns to Rio de Janeiro on Friday for the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics, the United States will be fielding a team whose average age is 27 years old.

The youngest members of the team are 16 years old, and the oldest are 52 — among them Beezie Madden of Cazenovia, N.Y., who will be competing in show jumping as part of the U.S. equestrian team.

Madden is no stranger to the Olympics — this will be her fourth time competing in the Games. In the 2004 Athens Games and the 2008 Beijing Games, she was part of the team that won the gold medal in show jumping. And she won an individual bronze medal in show jumping in 2008.

Equestrian events are unusual because women and men compete in the same categories. Madden is the first woman and the first American to have been in the top three in the Show Jumping world-ranking list, a status she achieved in 2004. She is also the first woman to earn $1 million in show jumping.

Born in Milwaukee, on Nov. 20, 1963, Madden started going to riding school when she was 4 years old. In an interview with the website Refinery29, she said she began competing when she was 6 or 7 years old. “I showed my first jumper when I was 17 years old,” she said, “and I think my first international competition was when I was in my early 20s.”

Athletes who compete in equestrian events often have longer careers than competitors in other sports. Riders often reach their prime in their 30s and 40s.

Madden often talks about the importance of the rider’s partnership with the horse. In the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, she rode Authentic, a Dutch Warmblood gelding. This year she will be riding Cortes “C,” a Belgian gelding known for crossing his legs as he goes over jumps.

“We work with an animal, so it’s not only training yourself and honing your own skills, but training and communicating with a very large animal,” Madden told Refinery29. “And while it’s challenging, it’s also very rewarding and very unique to our sport.”

While we’re cheering for all the members of Team USA, we can’t help rooting just a little bit louder for the oldest woman on the team.

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  • Andrea August 4, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    Go Beezie!