US swimmer Haven Shepherd is not one to dwell on past misfortune. You will be right to call her an overcomer.
She lost her legs as a baby after her parents detonated a bomb intended to kill the whole family.
This week, at her maiden Paralympics in Tokyo, the upbeat teenager said her goals were all about “just going out and having fun”.
Shepherd was 14 months old and living in rural Vietnam when her birth parents — who she has been told were having an affair and could not marry decided to take their own lives, as well as the child’s.
They strapped themselves to a bomb, held Haven and detonated the device, killing themselves instantly and blasting their tiny daughter 12 metres (40 feet) out of their hut.
She survived, though doctors were forced to amputate her legs. Six months later she was adopted by an American family who took her to Missouri to begin a new life.
Now 18, she described her debut at the Tokyo Games last Saturday as “a surreal moment”.
“It’s something you talk about with your family for five years, and it finally happened,” she said of her first race, where she finished fifth in the SM8 200m individual medley.
“I’m just going out and having fun. I know that I’m here and I made it. I accomplished my goal of making it to the Paralympics.”
Shepherd also swam in Wednesday morning’s SB7 100m breaststroke heats, missing out on a place in the final.
She is excited though about having the Paralympics in the international spotlight and says she is “open” about telling her story to the world.
“Some people don’t even know their story she said,I think why I am the person I am today is because I got to learn about who I was before I got to live this life,” she said.
Shepherd says she accepted the explanation easily, and “understood on a deeper level” what had happened to her.
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