Paralympian Scout Bassett explains how sports allowed her to embrace her disability as her ‘power’
It Figures is Yahoo Life's body image series, delving into the journeys of influential and inspiring figures as they explore what body confidence, body neutrality and self-love mean to them.
Scout Bassett lost her right leg prior to her first birthday before living in a government-run orphanage in China. But after being adopted and brought to the United States at seven years old, the young girl made a decision to not let her disability define her. Rather, she chose to discover all that her body was capable of, leading her to become an American Paralympic track and field athlete.
"I learned that it was going to be quite a difficult path and journey in sports and that the idea of inclusion and acceptance was a bit of a challenging one, for sure," Bassett tells Yahoo Life of her early interest in athletics and her determination to join teams that she wished to play for. "I was always welcome to be there, so I could be allowed to come to practice. But when it came to games or tournaments, I was often not allowed to play."
While often kept on the sidelines, Bassett portrayed the characteristics of an athlete through her decision to not give up on sports, but instead to get involved in whatever ways she could. "I just wanted to prove to my teammates and my coach that if I'm here, that in itself is sending an important message."
Upon turning 14 years old and getting her first running prosthetic, the "stubbornness" that Bassett credits for much of the fight that she put up in her younger years paid off as she got to run for the first time. This experience made her feel powerful.
"I had never run in my life, and I grew up so ashamed and embarrassed of being an amputee, of my story," she says. "When I ran for the first time, all of that disappeared."
Although her experience is unique, Bassett's journey to finding body acceptance isn't dissimilar from many others. In fact, she shares that despite her differences, much of the insecurities she had about her body while growing up were the same as other young women. And while she faced extra pressure to "hide" the very thing that makes her different, Bassett says she's ultimately embraced her disability as her "power."
"I have a body that I cannot change, events that cannot change that led to the loss of my right leg and the scars and the burns that I have," she says. "This is a marker of all the things I've been through, but also a great reminder that I'm a survivor, a warrior."
Bassett tapped into this same mentality to accept that she wouldn't be competing in the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games after suffering an injury that kept her from qualifying. As she works alongside the Always brand for the #KeepHerPlaying campaign, which encourages young women and girls to stay in sports despite certain obstacles, Bassett is demonstrating her own will to take on new challenges as a commentator of the games for NBC Sports. She's also expressed her desire to continue competing for years to come.
"The Paralympics is an incredible display of not only what the human body can do, but what the human spirit is capable of achieving and overcoming," she says. "Still to this day, people with disabilities struggle for so many basic human rights that they're largely denied. And I think part of that is the way society views people with disabilities as being lesser than and not equal or deserving of the same opportunities. So I really hope the Paralympics is a tremendous vehicle and catapult of really helping to bring more equality, more inclusion."
As for her personal journey and success, Bassett is proud of all that she's pushed her body to accomplish and the strides that she's made when it comes to visibility of the disabled community.
"It's always amazing when you do things that other people have told you that you couldn't do, but perhaps even more importantly, when you're able to do something that you yourself didn't know was possible," she says. "For me, that's really been my journey. So much of what I've become as an athlete, done as an athlete, the things that I just didn't ever think or dream that I could do."
Video produced by Katarina Vasquez