An ecstatic Haven Shepherd began her Facebook announcement on Sunday with three emphatic words.
“I did it!”
A Carthage resident, Shepherd has earned a spot on Team USA for the Paralympic Games, which will be held this summer in Tokyo.
Shepherd was selected to the national team after competing this past weekend at the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials in Minneapolis.
“I did it,” Shepherd exclaimed in her Facebook announcement. “I did it. Wooooo…Tokyo. I did it! I made the team.”
Shepherd has honed her skills for years with the Webb City-based Berzerker Swimming club team.
“It’s pretty amazing to have a kid from our program on Team USA,” Berzerker Swimming director and head coach Shawn Klosterman said. “It really is amazing. It’s awesome to think that the club I started from scratch 22 years ago has put someone on an international team. It’s pretty special.”
Klosterman, who is also Webb City High School’s head swim coach, accompanied Shepherd to the Paralympic Trials back in 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina
That year, Shepherd didn’t make the cut. But this year was a different story.
“It’s been a long road,” Klosterman said. “Her major event is the breaststroke. We’ve been trying to make some changes to it, but it wasn’t as fast as it was a couple of years ago. That was the one event where she had the minimum qualifying standard that’s required to be on Team USA. This time around, she had a really big swim in the 200 IM (individual medley). This weekend she was three full seconds under the automatic qualifying time. I think that was the swim that probably got her picked.”
Klosterman noted Shepherd has put in countless hours of hard work to make her longtime goal a reality.
“A typical week for her is eight practices a week in the pool,” Klosterman said. “She’s also been doing CrossFit. I think that may have been a game-changer for her. I think adding CrossFit has been a boost for her. She’s worked her butt off.”
Shepherd’s story has been well-documented. She was born in Vietnam and had both of her legs amputated below the knees after her father detonated a bomb in an attempt to kill the family. While both of her biological parents were killed, Haven survived.
In November of 2004, Haven was adopted by Shelly and Rob Shepherd of Carthage.
Since taking up competitive swimming when she was 12 years old, Shepherd has made big strides.
Shepherd, now 18, has competed in some big events before — the 2018 World Para Swimming World Series and the 2019 Parapan American Games.
It’s safe to say Shepherd has now taken the next step of an elite swimmer by making the U.S. Paralympic Team.
Team USA will consist of 24 women and 10 men. Shepherd is one of 11 women who will make their Paralympic debuts.
In addition to competitive swimming, Shepherd has strived to increase awareness about para-athletes and has inspired others with her story as a motivational speaker.
“She really has an inspirational message,” Klosterman said.
HAVEN’S BIO: Haven Shepherd (teamusa.org)