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Team USA diver Jordan Windle has reflected on the profound impact his adoptive father has had on his life while gearing up to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Jordan, 22, was born in Cambodia in 1998, where he later ended up in an orphanage. At the time, his father, Jerry Windle, had dreams of becoming a parent, but was living in Florida, where the law made it illegal for gay and lesbian individuals to adopt.
“There was such homophobia and bigotry around the concept of a gay person being a parent,” he told Today. “Even folks who loved me said, you can’t be a dad if you’re going to be gay.”
However, according to Jerry, after reading an article about a man who adopted a child from Cambodia as a single parent, he sought to do the same thing - eventually rescuing his son, who at the time was malnourished and fighting infection in a Cambodia orphanage, when he was two years old.
“He was two years old but he was 16 pounds. I didn’t know if he would live or die,” Jerry recalled. “I promised him that I would do everything that I could, that he wouldn’t ever have to suffer again. I would make every sacrifice I could as a parent to get him every opportunity.”
By the time Jordan was seven, he was signed up to diving lessons, with his father recalling that “he won his first junior national championship two years later, which is almost unprecedented for somebody that just got into a sport”.
Now, Jordan is set to compete in the men’s 10-metre platform diving competition this weekend in Tokyo, with the Olympian noting that he will be doing so for his father, whom he credits for his accomplishments.
“I tell everyone, when they ask me why I dive, I dive purely for my dad and how much he loves watching me,” Jordan told Today. “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.”
Due to Covid restrictions, Jordan’s father will not be in Tokyo to watch the competition in-person, however, he told the outlet he is confident that his son will be able to feel his support from home.
“I know that Jordan knows that I’m with him,” he said. And while he acknowledged that it is “incredibly disappointing” that he can’t be there, Jerry said that he plans to host a huge watch party in California, while he expects friends and family will be hosting another one in Florida.
He also said that he wants his son to enjoy the experience as much as he can, and that that’s all he’s ever wanted for him.
According to the 22-year-old, not having his father in the audience will be “different,” as the Olympian said he can usually pick his voice out of the crowd. However, he also noted that he plans to accomplish his goals even though his father won’t be there - and to make him proud in the process.
“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,” Jordan said.
And while Jordan is competing for the US, he told the outlet that he is also representing Cambodia, where he returned when he was 16 to participate in a diving exhibition and where he has become something of a “national hero,” in his heart. To honour the country of his birth, the diver recently had the Cambodian flag tattooed on his arm so that it would be visible when he competes.
He also revealed that the added pressure of all the people gearing up to watch him and cheer him on has made him even more excited to perform his best, telling Today: “This has been a dream come true and it’s an amazing opportunity to be part of.”