Two Changed Lives: From Orphan and Abandoned Child to Olympians

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Two Changed Lives: From Orphan and Abandoned Child to Olympians
Two Changed Lives: From Orphan and Abandoned Child to Olympians

The lives of Jordan Windle and Yul Moldaue were never likely to intersect – the former a Cambodian orphan, the latter an abandoned child from South Korea. But where fate is unkind, the human spirit sometimes intervenes. Both boys were adopted by American families and were given the chance to shape their own fortunes through their own hard work. Now they are both in Tokyo, with shining determination to excel as members of Team USA.

Diving talent Windle thanks his "gay dad" for support

Two Changed Lives: From Orphan and Abandoned Child to Olympians
Two Changed Lives: From Orphan and Abandoned Child to Olympians

Windle was born in Cambodia. He was sent to an orphanage in the capital, Phnom Penh, after the death of his parents when he was 1 year old. One year later, he was adopted by Jerry Windle, a gay American, and grew up in Florida. Under the loving care of his "gay dad", the frail and sickly Windle developed a rich and colorful life. At the age of 7, his talent led him to dominate the diving team at a water summer camp. Just two years later, he won his first national junior championship. He went on to win seven senior national championships and two National Collegiate Athletic Association championships while a university student, making him a rising star of the U.S. Olympic Diving team.

Two Changed Lives: From Orphan and Abandoned Child to Olympians
Two Changed Lives: From Orphan and Abandoned Child to Olympians

In 2011, Windle and his adoptive father wrote a children's book, An Orphan No More: The True Story of a Boy: Chapter One to tell their story. Five years ago, Windle returned to Cambodia for the first time since he was adopted to give a diving show for orphans, hoping to inspire these children who started from the same place that he did.

Two Changed Lives: From Orphan and Abandoned Child to Olympians
Two Changed Lives: From Orphan and Abandoned Child to Olympians

22-year-old Windle won the Olympic trials in June, qualifying him for the Men’s 10 Meter Platform at the Tokyo Olympics. "It just proved that with a positive attitude and continuing to smile, anything can happen," said Windle, who has realized his dream. Speaking of his adoptive father, he 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."

Two Changed Lives: From Orphan and Abandoned Child to Olympians
Two Changed Lives: From Orphan and Abandoned Child to Olympians

All-around champion Moldauer: If I hadn't been adopted, what would my life look like?

Two Changed Lives: From Orphan and Abandoned Child to Olympians
Two Changed Lives: From Orphan and Abandoned Child to Olympians

The U.S. gymnastics team also held Olympic trials in June. Among five team members, an Asian named Yul Moldauer is the most eye-catching. Moldauer was born in Seoul, South Korea – prematurely, due to his mother’s drug use. He was abandoned at the age of 1. Luckily, he was adopted by an American couple who give him his current name. Now, in another corner of the world, he has reversed his fate through gymnastics.

Two Changed Lives: From Orphan and Abandoned Child to Olympians
Two Changed Lives: From Orphan and Abandoned Child to Olympians
Two Changed Lives: From Orphan and Abandoned Child to Olympians
Two Changed Lives: From Orphan and Abandoned Child to Olympians

Moldauer’s premature birth caused him many health problems as a child, and a doctor even warned that worstening conditions may render him unable to take care of himself. However, his health improved gradually when he started working out at a free local gym at the age of 7. Three years later, he joined the gymnastics training center for formal training and began to win state competitions, becoming a member of the National Junior Team. In 2013, he led the team to win the International Junior Cup in Mexico. His adoptive parents have found that gymnastics has completely redefined their son’s life.

Two Changed Lives: From Orphan and Abandoned Child to Olympians
Two Changed Lives: From Orphan and Abandoned Child to Olympians

Moldauer won the pommel horse national championship in 2014. In 2016, he won the first NCAA men's all-around title as a freshman. In the space of four years, he won ten gold medals, six silver medals, and four bronze medals, making him the most decorated gymnast in NCAA history. "I couldn’t be more blessed. I think, What if I didn’t get adopted? What if I didn’t do gymnastics? What would my life look like?", 24-year-old Moldaue said excitedly.

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