Haven Shepherd, 18



“I don’t have to wear my legs in the pool which is so special because I have to drag around my legs every day.”

“I WAS BORN IN VIETNAM TO TWO PARENTS WHO were married to other people and they had an affair and had me. The story that we’re told is that they thought the only way they could be together was to commit a family suicide and they strapped bombs on themselves in a thatched roof hut and held me. They died, but I survived with all the damage done to my lower legs. It happened when I was 14 months old. I was with my maternal grandparen­ts after that and then was adopted when I was 20 months old by Gary and Shelly Shepherd from Missouri. They were with a foundation called Touch a Life and they just wanted to come with their friend Pam to rescue this little girl who needed to come to America for medical treatment. They fell in love with me in the process and adopted me.

All the family pictures I have start from my first Christmas back in Carthage. I had a normal American childhood in a place I really love and would describe as a Hallmark movie town. I have four sisters and two brothers. I’m the youngest and the only one who’s adopted in my family so I get to say I’m the favorite. All of them are also athletes.

I got into swimming when I was 10 years old. I did track for a long time but I realized that I hated it, I was hot, I was sweaty, so my mom put me in a swimming clinic and I fell in love with it. I swim about nine times a week for two hours per session and lift weights three days a week. I don’t have to wear my legs in the pool which is so special because I have to drag around my legs every day. It’s just such a hassle. I look forward to these hours in the pool, which make me feel so free.”

→ Shepherd competed in the finals of the women’s 200-meter individual medley relay on August 28, finishing fifth and setting a new personal best in the event with a time of 3 minutes, 3.59 seconds. She also competed in the women’s 100-meter breaststro­ke on September 1, placing fourth in her heat.

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