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Local 13 Year Old to Swim in Paralympic Qualifiers - KOAM TV 7

Local 13 Year Old to Swim in Paralympic Qualifiers

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JOPLIN, MISSOURI -

A Carthage girl is about to embark on a swim meet in North Carolina and she leaves tomorrow. But it’s not just any swim meet. She'll compete for a spot on a team headed to Rio for the Paralympics.

There’s no doubt about it, Haven Shepherd makes a splash, in the pool and out. She has her last swim practice in Joplin before heading to North Carolina where she will compete for a spot on a very prestigious team.

“It’s like an out of body experience because 3 years ago I would never think I was going to go to trials,” says Haven Shepherd.

She's an outgoing 13 year old, one of the best swimmers on the local USA team. But there is something that sets Haven apart. Born in Vietnam, she lost both of her legs as a baby.

“[Her biological parents] strapped bombs on to themselves is what we were told and maybe held her here and blew her out and all the damage was on her legs but it killed both of them,” says Shelly Shepherd, Haven’s mother.

Haven says she’s never let her disability hold her back.

“I can't just wake up in the night and just go to the bathroom because I have to put my legs on…but swimming is awesome because I don't have to wear my prosthetics, I can just swim away,” says Haven.

She's always been interested in sports but the pool quickly became a safe space and her accomplishments prove just that.

“It’s not something that everyone can do and if you look at the Paralympic trials there a minimum qualifying standard and there are not very many who even make it to the trials,” says Haven’s coach Shawn Klosterman.

He thinks she has a legitimate shot at making the team. But Haven and her family aren't putting too much pressure on the outcome this time around knowing she has many chances to make it in the future. And while it’s obvious she has a bright future, outside of sports, her mom thinks she can use her story to help others.

“I would really like to see her take her message of accepting yourself and kind of just become a motivational speaker. She’s so motivating to the girls and to our family and just such a joy so I’d like to see that shared,” says Shepherd.

Despite the serious week ahead, Haven is keeping things in perspective.

“It’s hard, it’s really hard but I’m going in an I’m fun."

The trials begin a week from tomorrow in Charlotte. This year's Paralympic games in Rio begin on September 7th.

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