The road to a global sporting event such as the Olympics does not come easy for most athletes, but it’s much more difficult for those without the support and resources to begin with.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him, his love, and support,” Jordan Windle told NBC Sports of his father, Jerry Windle.
Jordan, 22, was adopted as an 18-month-old boy in Cambodia. His birth parents died when he was just a year old and, for the next few months, he would live in an orphanage in Phnom Penh.
It was in that orphanage that Jerry — then a single gay man who struggled to adopt in the U.S. — would find him as a toddler suffering from malnutrition, scabies and severe infections. Jerry took him home to Florida, nursed him back to health and ultimately became his father.
Now, Jordan is in Tokyo for the Summer Olympics, representing the U.S. in diving.
Jordan’s Olympic ambitions began at age 7. After catching the attention of Tim O’Brien, son of famed diving coach Ron O’Brien, at a diving camp, Jordan entered the Fort Lauderdale diving program and soared through the ranks, according to Outsports.
It was also during this time when he met Olympic gold medalist and LGBT activist Greg Louganis. He was even called “Little Louganis.”
After three Olympic trials — first at age 13, then at age 16 — Jordan achieved his dream of 15 years and qualified for the men’s platform event in June. And while his father cannot be with him due to COVID-19 restrictions, he is still “super excited” about it.
“I can usually hear (my dad) out of everyone in the audience, which is awesome. Not having him at the Olympics will be different,” Jordan told Today. “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.”
The father and son celebrated their story in a children’s book that they co-authored in 2011. The book, titled “An Orphan No More: The True Story of a Boy,” tells the story of a rooster who was told by other animals that he cannot be a father without a hen. One day, he stumbles upon an egg that no one wants. What hatches is a duckling, but despite their different looks, the two would prove, in Louganis’ words, that “where there is love, there is family.”
In 2016, Jordan returned to Cambodia to perform a diving exhibition for orphans. He sought to inspire the children he was once among and show them what they can achieve.
Jordan is competing in the 3-meter and 10-meter events. His first competition (3-meter Springboard Prelim) is scheduled for Aug. 2 at 3 p.m. (Tokyo time).