Star Texas divers take unusual paths, realize Olympic dreams at Tokyo Games

Matthew Boncosky, Sports Reporter

Texas diving will be well represented at the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games.

Star divers Alison Gibson and Jordan Windle, along with their diving coach Matt Scoggin, will travel with Team USA to the games, but the paths the two divers took to get where they are today were anything but ordinary.

Gibson, a senior at UT from Austin, Texas, said she started swimming at the Lee & Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center when she was 8 years old. She recalled walking around the pool deck, chatting with all the coaches she already knew, including legendary Texas men’s swim coach Eddie Reese, and making her way over to the diving well where she met Scoggin, who suggested she give diving a try.

“I was like, ‘No, I’m a swimmer,’” Gibson said at a Tuesday media availability. “I actually said, ‘I’m going to go to the Olympics for swimming.’ That was my dream.”

Flash forward a couple of months, and her new swim coach at the time told her she could only swim five nights a week instead of six. With Scoggin’s suggestion in the back of her mind, Gibson began diving Friday nights and fell in love with the sport.

“And now Matt Scoggin is taking me to the Olympics, and so it kind of came full circle,” Gibson said. “The journey itself was really difficult, but I had a lot of fun along the way, and I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for 12 years. It flew by.”

Gibson will make her Olympic debut in the Women’s Synchronized 3-meter Springboard competition after an illustrious career at Texas that included a 1-meter diving NCAA Championship as a freshman in 2017.

Time flies for Scoggin, who has coached Texas diving for 25 years and assisted with Team USA at four Olympic Games, as he has watched his two star divers flourish over the years.

“It seems like yesterday I asked Alison (to get involved with diving),” Scoggin said. “(It) seems like yesterday that (Windle) was a freshman at Texas, and to know the hard work that Jordan and Alison have put in over the last several years, especially during this past COVID year-and-a-half, all the sacrifices that they’ve had to make, it’s an incredible journey for them.”

Windle shares a well documented and special bond with his father Jerry, who adopted him as an infant from an orphanage in Cambodia. Since then, Jerry has raised Jordan on his own and encouraged his love for diving, cheering his son on from the stands every step of the way.

“My dad has sacrificed so much throughout my whole life, and he’s given me what I needed to succeed,” Windle said. “Him being at the Olympic trials with me has been everything. Personally, I don’t think I would have performed at the level that I did if he wasn’t there.”

Jerry was seen on TV emotionally cheering on his son at the U.S. Olympic Diving Trials in June, when Jordan secured a spot in the Men’s 10-meter Platform competition in Tokyo.

“You saw the emotion that he had after the whole event was over, and that just showed how much love he has for me,” Windle said. “That just makes me want to work hard and make him proud.”

This year’s Olympics might look unusual with no fans, but the experience will be similar to what the divers experienced during the height of the pandemic. Ultimately, the journey to Tokyo represents the realization of lifelong dreams.

“I’ve been watching the Olympics my whole life,” Gibson said. “It’s always been kind of this dream in the back of my head, and so now that it’s reality, I’m excited to really just represent my country and my university and my state and my city and make everyone proud.”