As Team USA track and field Star Scout Bassett gets ready to compete in the Tokyo Paralympic Games, she's opening up about her life and the moment of freedom she experienced when she first ran with a prosthetic.
Bassett, 32, who uses a prosthetic on her right leg, graces the cover of Self Magazine ahead of her second Paralympic appearance. At the Rio Paralympic Games in 2016, she placed 5th in the 100 meter dash and 10th in the long jump, according to her record on Team USA's website. She also has two world championship bronze medals.
“I hated P.E. class because we would pick teams," she told Self. "And of course, I was never the first. I was always the last or at the very bottom. There were all these everyday reminders of why you didn’t belong."
Bassett was born in Nanjing, China, and lost her leg in a chemical fire as an infant. She spent the first seven years of her life in an orphanage, where she was given a makeshift prosthetic leg pieced together with tape and belts. In 1995, she was adopted by her American parents and moved to Harbor Springs, Michigan, according to her biography on Team USA's website.
Bassett tried to hide her prosthetic as a pre-teen, wearing a cosmetic cover over her prosthetic in an effort to make it less noticeable. Everything changed, however, the moment she tried on a running prosthetic.
"The moment I did run, I felt this freedom and unlimited feeling, and all the chains that had weighed me down as a young girl were just lifted. When I ran, I felt like I was going to be okay. I have running, and no matter what, I’m able to do something I never thought I could do," she told the magazine. "When I put on this running leg, suddenly the thing that really held me back was no longer holding me back. It just changed my whole thinking and how I felt about myself. It was from that moment that I really felt like I had some hope of the future."
While men are celebrated as "bionic" in pop culture, she said women with disabilities are made to seem deficient, which is something she hopes to see change in the future. In June, Bassett proudly posed with an American Girl doll modeled after her.
"So thankful to @americangirlbrand for collaborating with us on this special project and sharing our belief that all girls should feel seen, valued and inspired to stay in sports," she wrote on Instagram.
There's also another part of Bassett's identity she wants to address. As an Asian American, she said she is devastated by the hateful attacks against her community.
"When it first started, I thought, I wish America loved Asian people as much as they love our food. Because they’re happy to love sushi and ramen and Chinese food and whatnot," she said in the interview with Self. "What is great about this movement is that I feel like that narrative is changing. We are not the silent, submissive, just-stay-quiet group. And that you’re seeing voices that are speaking out and talking about their experiences.”