“When they ask me why I dive, I dive purely for my dad and how much he loves watching me,” says young Jordan Windle, who got on a plane from Austin, Texas, last Sunday with a head full of dreams about his destination—the Tokyo Olympics.
“I struggled to close my eyes on the flight (because) of how excited I was,” Jordan said, according to The News & Observer.
The 22-year-old diver is one among the 11 members of the U.S. Olympic Diving Team that are competing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games that are being held this year.
For someone who was once malnourished and struggling to stay alive as a toddler, it is truly a special lifetime achievement for Jordan. He was only about a year old when he lost both of his parents. Their death left him living for months in an orphanage in Cambodia, where he fought for his life and suffered parasitic infections throughout his body.
Meanwhile, miles away in America was a single gay man, Jerry Windle, who desperately wanted to raise a child as his own but never thought his wish would ever come true.
“I started thumbing through a magazine and there was a story in there of a man who adopted a child from Cambodia, and it didn’t mention a mother,” Jerry told TODAY. “The story went on to talk about the close relationship between the father and his son, and something kind of clicked in my head… The article listed (the number of an adoption service) and so I called the number and I said ‘I just read an article, is it possible for a single person to adopt a child?’ and they said ‘Yes, it is.'”
That phone call changed not only Jerry’s life but also Jordan’s.
Within months after that conversation, Jerry found himself in the orphanage in Cambodia, holding a frail Jordan in his arms.
Jerry brought Jordan to Florida and began watching him grow up to be a happy, wonderful young boy.
As Jordan turned seven years old, his life began to further change after he attended a summer camp. There, Tim O’Brien (whose father, Ron O’Brien, had coached a number of famous divers in America), noticed that Jordan was no ordinary boy. He told Jerry that his son had the talent to go far in the sport, according to olympics.com.
“At 7 years old he started diving, and he won his first junior national championship two years later, which is almost unprecedented for somebody that just got into a sport,” Jerry told TODAY. “I know the hard work that he’s put into it, it’s been earned, and I’m just really excited and proud that with his coaching staff, he’s been able to accomplish such an amazing feat.”
Over the years, Jerry has proudly watched from the stands as Jerry achieved feat after feat until he made it to the prestigious U.S. Olympic Diving Team this year.
Jerry is “super excited” but will definitely miss having his dad with him in Tokyo due to the COVID restrictions on spectators.
“I can usually hear (my dad) out of everyone in the audience, which is awesome. Not having him at the Olympics will be different,” said Jordan. “I wish he was there, but that doesn’t really change what I’m going there to do: To have fun, show off a little bit, and put on a show for everyone. That’s going to be my intention and I’m hopefully going to make him proud.”
Each time he stands on the edge of the diving board, Jordan has the thought of his father at the back of his mind.
“I tell everyone, when they ask me why I dive, I dive purely for my dad and how much he loves watching me,” Jordan said. “Without him making all the sacrifices that he has, and his love and support the whole time we’ve been together, I really wouldn’t be where I am today. I have him to thank for everything, all my accomplishments. It’s been an amazing journey with him, and we’re still rolling.”
Cover image source: (L) Jordan Windle/Instagram and (R) Getty Images | Photo by Dylan Buell