Jordan Pisey Windle, 17, is a top diver in the US. Born in rural Cambodia and raised in the US, he is on his first trip to the Kingdom, discovering his roots and displaying his skills
This morning, a horde of uniformed schoolchildren gathered around the pool at a Phnom Penh sports centre, shouting in unison: “Pisey! Pisey!”
The youngsters were chanting the birth name of Jordan Pisey Windle, a Cambodian-born, US-trained diver who, at the age of 17, is already one of the top five divers in the US.
Jordan was at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium coaching local divers and showing off some of his more impressive moves in an exhibition open to the public.
Back in the US, Jordan is a junior national champion, a junior Pan American champion and a member of the national diving team. He is currently training for the USA Diving Olympic Team Trials, to be held next month in Indianapolis, in a bid to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “I’m really going to push to try to make it to Rio,” Jordan said “and try to represent the United States.”
Jordan was orphaned as a baby in rural Prey Veng province. His father, US citizen Jerry Windle, adopted Jordan when he was two years old. This trip is Jordan’s first trip back to Cambodia since being adopted.
Jerry describes the intense media interest that his son received upon arriving at Phnom Penh International Airport. “It was almost overwhelming for us. We didn’t realise it would be that great of a reception when we arrived,” he said. “But the interest that the Cambodian people have in his story, and how he can inspire – not only the youth of Cambodia but hopefully the government of Cambodia to provide opportunity for the young people – was overwhelming.”
Jordan says that his time in Cambodia has been eye opening. “Seeing where the Khmer Rouge was, seeing the Killing Fields – it’s really emotional, just knowing that it happened here,” he said. “It just made me really sad. But I’m glad to be back and see all these people supporting me.”
Jordan grew up in several cities around the US, and was identified at a young age as having a knack for diving. He has trained with esteemed divers such as Sean McCarthy, Tim O’Brien, Evan Linette and Greg Louganis. At 12 years old, he was one of the youngest divers to ever qualify for the US Olympic trials.
Cambodia’s diving and watersports scene has some room to grow, said Jordan. However, he is optimistic that there will be improvement in the future. “I just want people to know that [the sport is] here,” he said. “There are really talented divers: I’ve coached a few of them, helped out. It can grow as long as they put some effort into it, some hard work and dedication.”
According to Jerry, the trip has been emotional for Jordan, but it was a crucial opportunity for his son to see his roots. “It was important for me to bring him back. Especially now, when he’s at an age to not only intellectualise what his culture is, but also to emotionally handle it.”
Throughout his trip to Cambodia, Jordan said that he has been learning some of the Khmer language and trying different local dishes. “I want to try a tarantula, but my dad doesn’t want me to,” he added with a laugh.