Nothing stands in the way of these Game Changer para-athletes

Haven, Suvarna and Marlou are paving the way for future paralympians

The 2018 Winter Paralympics are just over one week away. To get ready, we’re celebrating three of our extraordinary para-athlete Game Changers.

When they’re not dominating the competition in the water, on the track or at the ping pong table, these young women use their prominence to support other athletes with impairments. Meet Haven, Suvarna and Marlou!

 
 (Courtesy of Caters News Agency)

(Courtesy of Caters News Agency)

 

Haven

After Haven lost her legs in her biological parents’ suicide bombing in Vietnam, the Shepherd family adopted her and brought her to the U.S. Haven is now a champion swimmer and Paralympic hopeful. When she’s not watching Marvel movies or painting, Haven speaks with other young para-athletes: “I’ve taken the fact that I don’t have legs and made it a positive in my life. I like that I stand out and am different. My hope is that all girls could feel that way.”


 
 (Courtesy of Suvarna Raj)

(Courtesy of Suvarna Raj)

 

Suvarna

Suvarna is an international para-table tennis player who advocates for disability rights in India. She believes that change starts in schools: “People with disability and especially girls with disability don’t get the right education. Something as essential as toilets are not accessible in government schools. A girl shouldn’t have to stop her education because she can’t use the bathroom.”


 
 (Courtesy of Marlou van Rhijn)

(Courtesy of Marlou van Rhijn)

 

Marlou

Known as the fastest woman in the world on blades, Marlou van Rhijan is a three-time Paralympian and world record holder. She is also founder of Project Blade, which helps fit children with their first running blades or bionic legs. Marlou launched this initiative to make the path to athletics easy and fun for young para-athletes. “I wanted children that needed blades to have the same experience as every child. And that is to just go into a store, get someone to help you find your perfect shoe, go out and run,” she says.


 
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tess Thomas is editor of Assembly, a digital publication and newsletter from Malala Fund. She loves books, cats and french fries.