Jordan Windle: From Cambodian orphanage to U.S. Olympic Diving Team 

Fate plunged Cambodian orphan Windle into the deep end, but now Tokyo 2020 awaits “little Louganis.”

By Chloe Merrell
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

For Jordan Windle, giving up has never been an option.

It's the very spirit that booked him his ticket to Tokyo 2020, in 2021 on the third going of trying at the U.S. Olympic Diving trials.

The 22-year-old produced a sublime dive worthy of five 10s and two 9.5s in the finals to stave off the competition and guarantee a spot on the U.S. roster alongside teammate Brandon Loschiavo, who finished the trials in first.

As David Boudia handed Windle an Olympic ring, the painful memories of falling achingly short of contention in 2012 and 2016 were left in the depths of the plunge pool.

“It just proved that with a positive attitude and continuing to smile, anything can happen,” reflected Windle, on the dive that realised an Olympic dream 15 years in the making.

Jordan Windle
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

From Cambodia to America

When you stop to consider the life journey the 22-year-old diver has already been on to get this moment, the true weight of his words: anything can happen, are made clear.

Windle’s story began in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, where he was born. Just a year into life, the infant boys’ parents tragically died meaning he was put in an orphanage in the country’s capital, Phnom Penh.

A year later his fate dramatically changed after he was adopted by American, Jerry Windle, who took the boy to be raised with him in Florida, U.S.

It was at a summer camp, at just seven years old, that a young Windle’s talents were spotted. Tim O’Brien, whose father Ron O'Brien had coached many of America’s elite divers, observed the young boy’s natural abilities and urged his father Jerry, to commit to the sport.

O'Brien had seen something in Windle that reminded him of one of his father's most decorated divers: four-time Olympic champion Greg Louganis. It prompted the nickname "Little Louganis."

Two short years later, Windle won his first National title confirming O’Brien’s instincts, and it didn’t stop there.

The University of Texas senior carried on diving for gold, winning a further five junior national titles, seven senior national titles and more recently becoming a two-time NCAA champion.

Legendary support

It’s little wonder that the legendary Louganis has taken Windle under his wing. The gold medalist is often on hand to urge the young diver on with words of advice, and already, Windle is channelling his words with immense focus.

“Just like Louganis taught me since the beginning to always have fun and treat it like a sport’s supposed to be – go out there and be a competitor – and that’s what I intend to do,” Windle said, with the Games now in sight.

A testament to the strength of the mentor-mentee relationship the two divers have is perhaps best illustrated with the knowledge that in 2011, Jerry and Jordan Windle co-authored a children’s book inspired by their remarkable family bond. The story “An Orphan No More: The True Story of a Boy,” begins with a foreword written by Louganis.

The past and the future

While Windle anticipates his long-awaited Olympic debut, in many ways the foundations of his legacy are already in place.

In 2016, the diver returned to Cambodia for the first time since he was adopted to perform a diving exhibition for the orphans of Phnom Penh. His intention on returning was to inspire the children he was once among, and show them what is possible.

The decision to return to his native country and deliver a message of hope demonstrates how much Windle has embraced the extraordinary journey he has already been on with all the challenges and obstacles it has presented.

Looking ahead, the next chapter of his journey finally has a title: Tokyo Olympics.