A teen Paralympic swimming star has shared her seemingly impossible journey from miraculously surviving a suicide bomb attack at the hands of her own father as a baby, to the world stage at the Tokyo Games.
Haven Faith Shepherd, now 18, was blown 10 metres in the air in a blast in 2004 caused by her disturbed father, who had strapped a bomb to his own body and unthinkably, also to his wife.
Both were killed inside the family’s thatched hut in Vietnam.
Her parents were having extramarital affairs, Ms Shepherd was later told, and her father purchased the bombs when he could no longer bear their situation, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
A teen Paralympic swimming star and model has shared her seemingly impossible journey from miracle survival in a suicide bomb attack by her own father as a baby to the Tokyo Games
Haven Shepherd, 18, realised a goal she set herself at 13 by swimming in the Paralympics on Saturday morning
Miss Shepherd recounted in chilling detail how her father gabbed hold of her too, just 16 months old at the time, before detonating the bombs.
In the explosion that followed Haven suffered devastating burns, injuries and blood loss but thankfully was thrown from his arms and survived.
Miss Shepherd was rushed to hospital where both her legs were immediately amputated and her head was shaved ‘to dig the shrapnel from my scalp’.
Strangers paid for her medical care and operations but as her grandparents were so poor, they couldn’t afford the cost of care. She was adopted by an American family, Rob and Shelly Shepherd.
Rob Shelly carries tiny Haven onto a plane at Saigon in 2004, six months after she nearly died in an horrific suicide bomb attack by her disturbed father. Mr Shelly and his wife adopted Haven
After almost being murdered by her own father, Haven Shepherd has gone on to become a disability advocate, athlete, motivational speaker and a model
Stunning photographs show tiny Haven in the weeks after she somehow survived two devastating bomb blasts that killed both her parents. Haven with her adopted father Rob Shepherd, whom she calls her hero
Miss Shepherd had to learn to walk on prosthetic legs while growing up in a new country.
She learned to swim in the family’s backyard pool in Missouri.
Inspired to participate in sports by her six sports-mad siblings – she has four sisters and two brothers – she settled on swimming over running, which she found painful.
Haven Faith Shepherd poolside in Tokyo ahead of her first race at the Paralympics
Haven Shepherd with her dad Rob, whom she calls her ‘hero’
In 2013, at just nine years of age, she vowed to one day compete for her adopted country at the Paralympic Games.
Since then she has become a motivational speaker as well as an athlete, a model, brand ambassador and disability advocate.
Miss Shepherd bears no resentment for what happened.
‘That’s a life I never lived; I don’t remember it,’ Haven told People magazine.
Instead she sees herself as an example of finding ‘beauty from the ashes’.
Haven Shepherd takes a break from weight training
This month she fulfils her life-long dream in Tokyo.
She will compete in five swimming events: the 100 metre breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly, the 50 metre freestyle and the 200 metre individual medley.
On Saturday, her first day of competition in the individual medley, in which she is a medal chance, she posted an inspiring message on Instagram.
Haven Shepherd with her dad walking along the beach
‘Today is my first race here in competition. Truth is, for me, this whole experience isn’t about the final place I receive but about the journey I took to get here.
‘I could’ve spent the last six years of my life sitting because it is easier than walking, or complaining because it’s easier then being grateful, or quitting because it is easier than continuing.’
‘But I didn’t.
‘I decided to keep moving and for today, I am pretty excited about where it all led me.
‘Remember… if you can’t run, walk… if you can’t walk, crawl… if you can’t crawl… or hate to run… swim! But no matter what… move!’