Haven Shepherd is all grown up living on her own training for Paris 2024

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Paralympic athlete swimmer Haven Shepherd is proud to be living on her own living out her dream as a professional swimmer and brand ambassador.

Imagine having never met your biological parents. Can’t be easy right?

Now imagine learning at a very young age that those biological parents killed themselves and tried to kill you because of arcane societal rules. You survived, but lost both your legs and would only walk with prosthetics.

Now go ahead and do your best to put that early life trauma behind you and become a Paralympic athlete, motivational speaker and model who has a positive spirit that does not need any lengthy speech to detect.

Meet Haven Shepherd an American Paralympic hero like no other.

“I always knew my story growing up and that has really helped me through so many things in my life knowing what happened to me and knowing that I have this incredible story and now I get to live it out,” Shepherd told FanSided. “I never saw the reason to be insecure about my legacy. I can’t change this, I can’t grow my legs back tomorrow, why not embrace it?”

That attitude does not come from thin air. Shepherd credits her adopted parents and family. There is ‘Momager’ Shelly, Dad Rob and her six older siblings who all provided as normal a childhood as possible for Haven, growing up in Carthage, Missouri.

“My first memory is definitely with my big family. I am the seventh child and I am the youngest. My first memory is big family dinners, a packed house. Growing up in a big family was always really exciting for me because you always had something to do.”

Born in Vietnam, Haven’s parents had an affair. Women in Vietnam were not allowed to divorce their husbands so the solution was to commit a family suicide. The parents strapped bombs to themselves and held Haven who was 16-months old at the time. She was blown 40 feet away and then adopted four months later. About four years later Haven wanted to know what happened to her.

“I got out of the bathtub and she ( Mom Shelly ) was drying me off and stuff and I just looked up at her and said so are you going to tell me what happened to my legs and why are all my sisters blonde? I was a bold five-year-old,” Shepherd said.

The conversation was a unique one that only a special five-year-old could have with their Mom.

“She sat me down and she told me and I only had two questions, I said ‘well, that was stupid’ and the second question was where do you even get a bomb in Vietnam and my Mom’s response was well I don’t know Haven and then I ran off and I played and that was the end of the story,” Shepherd said.

Not exactly. Shepherd is now 18-years old living on her own, holding off on college for the time being while she swims professionally, gives motivational speeches, and models all while repping numerous brands to pay the bills. She proudly puts herself in the ‘young adult’ category — “I paid taxes this year, look at me go.”

Haven Shepherd is all about the silver lining

The north star goal for the next couple of years is the 2024 Paris Paralympic games. Shepherd finished fifth (200-meter Individual Medley) in her Paralympic debut in Tokyo 2020.

“A big part of my life is I am in a professional spot of my career now and everybody likes to call me an adaptive athlete which I am but they don’t think I do this for real,” Shepherd said. “This is my job, I am a professional swimmer, this is what I do for a living. All professional athletes should be paid respect it’s all under one name but it is important to know the difference between the Paralympics and the Olympics.”

The pool is where Shepherd loves to be. She is making money off of the sport, but the sport is giving her much more than dollars in her pocket.

“There is nothing in the world like it molds to your body, there is no sound,” Shepherd said. “The reason why I sleep so good at night is because I get to have that time where I get to process everything that happened that day. I go through a checklist when I get in the pool, what did I do this morning, what did I do today that will make tomorrow better? I think it is just so calming to know that I have that reassurance, that I always have that to fall on. However rough my day was, I know I can count on swimming. I cannot imagine my life without the water and without swimming.”

We all should have our happy place. And it wouldn’t be a bad thing to have the attitude of Haven Shepherd, making sure you take care of number one.

“I hate the victim mentality because I just have such an American mindset of go out and do it yourself,” Shepherd explained. “There is nobody that can help you but yourself. I’m not saying just go out there and wear shorts and show off your disability that is not what I’m saying I’m saying that in order to become not a victim and wanting to stand up for yourself is starting with just giving yourself daily affirmation in the mirror, sticking up for yourself on the inside and that’s what I do for myself every single day.”

Don’t get it twisted. Shepherd is aware that there was a very key component that helped her reach for the stars and live the life she is living today.

“I owe it all to my parents and it is so great to see their dream come into play because they invested a lot into the swimming career of mine and it’s so great to go to Tokyo and represent them,” Shepherd beamed. “Ever since I was very little she ( Mom ) told me this is who I am and this is a part of my life that I am going to have to overcome or might not overcome. She was very reassuring that my legs do not define me. What defines me is my character my attitude and we have worked on my attitude so much because that was such a big important thing in my life.”

Positive attitude. Relentless determination. Striving for the stars. Bringing awareness for people with disabilities. Disciplined. Shepherd checks all the boxes.

“Life is good, I don’t have much to complain about. My life is pretty good, I don’t live a sad story.”

More like one of the most amazing ones you will ever come across.

Haven Shepherd is partnering with Smoothie King to promote their latest smoothie, The Activator Recovery.

Why We Play features stories about the power of sports to bring us together, overcome obstacles, make positive change and reach everyone. Read more here.

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