Scout Bassett’s journey to becoming one of the top track and field Paralympians in the United States is an inspiring one and one that took shape in northern Michigan.
As an infant growing up in China, Bassett lost her right leg in a chemical fire.
She spent her first seven years living in an orphanage in Nanjing, China with a makeshift prosthetic leg.
“It was made of like leather belt straps and nuts and bolts that you would find in like your garage,” Bassett said. “I mean, he foot was like a piece of plastic that was taped on with duct tape.”
Her life changed in 1995 when a couple from the U.S. adopted her and brought her home to Harbor Springs.
“I’m really grateful for the small town, values and sense of community that I felt there and the things that I’ve been able to carry with me the rest of my life have been so important from growing up there and for them truly appreciative,” Bassett says.
Bassett struggled to fit in when she attended school in Harbor Springs, but upon transferring to Petoskey High School she began feeling more at home.
It was during her time at Petoskey that Bassett began laying the foundation for her future as a Paralympian.
“I was 14 when I got my first running leg from the Challenge Athletes Foundation, and it really just changed the course of my whole life,” Bassett said. “I had always struggled and didn’t get a lot of playing time and what not, and to be able to get a running leg and experience something where I felt so free and so unlimited compared to the walking leg and realizing like I was going to be okay. Just being able to do something and excel at it, it just really changed so many things for me and gave me so much confidence and self-belief. And I just knew that from then on I would always be a runner.”
After moving to California with her family and attending UCLA, Bassett’s passion for running was met with an opportunity.
“My sophomore year at UCLA is when the U.S. Paralympic track and field coach contacted me and she had seen that I was a distance runner and had some triathlon experience and at that time triathlon was not part of the Paralympics,” Bassett said. “In an effort to recruit more women, she contacted me about trying out for track and field and I was like, sure.”
Bassett transitioned to a track and field Paralympian in 2016 and quickly found success, winning bronze medals in the 100 meter dash and long jump at the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships in London and a gold at the 2019 Parapan American Games in the long jump in Peru.
She was also featured in the 2019 edition of ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue.
Bassett believes the challenges she faced during her childhood prepared her for the success she’s enjoyed as an athlete.
“I wouldn’t change a single part of my story, from losing my leg to growing up in this orphanage to being raised in northern Michigan,” she says. “All those sort of chapters of my life were really challenging and filled with a lot of difficulty, but you know, I have used all of it for good, and all of it has helped me to be the person that I am. It has driven me to have the goals that I have now and I think more importantly, to really have the mindset of service of giving back, of having an impact that hopefully is far beyond just me.”
Bassett is currently training in San Diego in preparation for the 2021 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
Thanks to Bridgestone for making this interview possible.
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