Haven Shepherd – The Vietnamese-Born Disabled Athlete Who’s Participating In The Paralympics

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Haven Shepherd – from Vietnamese bomb survivor to US Paralympian


The Olympics, and by extension, the Paralympics, are not what we Vietnamese pay much attention to. However, as one of the most popular sports festivals in the world, it is where the best of the best athletes gather to push their limits, to show us what the human body is capable of.

At the same time, it is also the birthplace of so many inspiring stories of people overcoming hardship and pursuing their dreams with absolute dedication.

Today we want to bring you one such stories: that of Haven Shepherd – a Vietnamese-born swimmer who, despite losing both her legs at only one year old, is participating in the Paralympics later this August.

Read on for her incredible story.


She was born in extreme poverty in Vietnam and lost her legs to her parents’ suicide attempt


haven sheperd baby 1
Haven Shepherd, then a baby named Đỗ Thị Thúy Phượng, and her grandmother after her bomb incident

Image credit: @havenfaithshepherd

Haven Shepherd was born as Đỗ Thị Thúy Phượng in extreme poverty in Quảng Nam Province, Vietnam. In 2004, when she was only 14 months old, her parents tried to commit suicide by strapping bombs to themselves with their daughter in the middle.

While the explosion claimed her parents’ lives, Phượng survived. However, both of her lower legs were damaged beyond repair and had to be amputated below the knee.

Following the incident, Phượng was taken care of by her grandparents until later that year.


Haven bonding with her would-be adopted father Rob Shepherd shortly after they met
Image credit: VNExpress

It was then that she met Rob and Shelly Shepherd, a US couple who quickly developed a bond with the orphaned girl and chose to adopt her as their own, giving her the name Haven – “safe place”.

And thus, Haven Shepherd’s life began anew.


She’s now set to participate in the Paralympics


haven sheperd swimmer
She’s now set to participate in the 2020 Paralympics
Image credit: @havenfaithshepherd

The Shepherds brought Haven to their home in Carthage, Missouri, where she quickly bonded with her 6 new siblings.

And as her new family had a long tradition in sports, Haven also grew up with an interest in physical activities, particularly swimming.

crossfit practice
Aside from swimming, she also practices CrossFit

Image credit: @havenfaithshepherd

“I don’t have to wear my prosthetics because they’re really heavy and they’re not as comfortable. It’s like having a really tight sock all day and swimming just really gives me the freeness that I really enjoy having,” Haven was quoted by the International Paralympic Committee.

She qualified for the Paralympics Emerging Swim team at the age of 12. Now, at 18, she’s ready to participate in the upcoming 2020 Paralympics, which is set to kick off later this month, on 24th August.


We wish Haven all the best


With a positive attitude and hard work, and of course, love and support from her family, Haven Shepherd has become an inspirational figure for many – a living example of what we can achieve despite unfavorable circumstances.

We wish Haven all the best in her upcoming competitions. If you’re interested in following her Paralympics journey, check out her Facebook and Instagram.

For more stories, check out:


Cover image adapted from @havenfaithshepherd (left) and @havenfaithshepherd (right)

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