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In 2011, 23 year old Scout Bassett measuring 4-foot-8 and 80 pounds, graduated from UCLA, was named 2011 Endurance Live Awards Challenged Athlete of the Year, was a Silver Medalist at the Paratriathlon Nationals in NYC, and was a Bronze Medalist at the International Triathalon Union Paratriathlon World Championships in Beijing, China.
Scout's journey began before she was a year old when she was left on the doorstep of an orphanage in Nanjing, China. There was no explanation for her missing lower right leg or the burns and scars on other areas of her body. She was abandoned and left to endure hardship, abuse and child labor.
Then in 1994, while touring the orphanage, Susi and Joe Bassett, of Harbor Springs, Michigan, saw a 6-year-old girl with soft brown eyes and a pixie cut, weighing only 22lbs and thought, "She needs me."
When Scout was 12, she joined her junior high school's basketball, soccer, and softball teams. She quickly learned that she was welcome to practice but she wasn't always welcome to compete. "Sports magnified my disability and shaped how I saw myself -- my teammates and coaches didn't think I was good enough to play. Out of bitterness and anger, I wanted to prove them wrong," said Bassett.
During her senior year of high school, the Bassett family relocated to Southern California and Scout connected with the Challenged Athletes Foundation. She attended their running clinics and started working as a mentor with young amputees. Then CAF suggested Scout compete in its annual San Diego Triathlon Challenge (a 1-mile swim, 40-mile bike and 10-mile run), offering her a training grant to learn how to swim and ride a bike. "That's really when I got serious about running -- and biking and swimming," Bassett recalled.
Since then she has qualified and competed in several races throughout the world and earned a full scholarship to attend and recently graduate from UCLA.
"My goal is to empower as many people as possible to overcome their challenges and achieve their dreams."Scout Bassett
Scout does not know what the future holds for her. 2012 marks the beginning of her career working at Ossur Americas as a Digital Media Specialist. She will also continue to support the CAF mission and the athletes they serve, as a spokesperson for the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
Her short-term competition goal is to qualify for Paralympic Track and Field Trials in Miramar, FL in mid-June 2012 and hopefully make it to the London Games. Long-term, she plans to stay competitive in track and/or triathlons. "I also plan to build a professional career in marketing and business and then apply to graduate school down the road," said Bassett.
A Leg Up
To improve her athletic performance, Bassett uses four custom prosthetic legs, some of which cost up to $30,000. Insurance won't cover them, deeming them luxury items, so Bassett relies on the Challenged Athletes Foundation and her sponsor, Ossur Orthopedics, for help.
"My mission is to make equipment more accessible," she said of the prosthetics with titanium knees and carbon-fiber feet, which weigh 4.5 to 5 pounds each. "Maybe if we increased access to these legs, we could get amputees more fit and motivate them to participate in athletics."
Among her options:
Sprint Leg: L-shaped, stiffer and more aggressive than her long-distance leg. The knee kicks out faster, for a swifter return. (Like the ones Oscar Pistorius wears.)
Cross country Leg: C-shaped to allow for more compression, promoting a smoother, more natural running motion.
Bike Leg: With no shoe or foot, this leg clips right into the bike pedal.
Walking Leg: At barely 4 pounds, it's lighter than her athletic legs and has a foot shell on the end, allowing Bassett to wear a shoe.
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