Long way from the orphanage

Updated: 2011-09-13 07:51

By Tang Yue (China Daily)

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Long way from the orphanage

American Scout Bassett, 23, competes at the 2011 ITU World Championship on Friday in Beijing. She finished third in the Paratriahlon TRI-2 in 2 hours, 26 seconds. [Provided to China Daily]

Triathlete returns to China for first time since adoption 16 years ago, Tang Yue reports

Scout Bassett is dubbed triathlon's "Cinderella", and for good reason. She was left on the doorstep of a local orphanage in the Chinese city of Nanjing with a missing right leg. She stayed there until she was seven and adopted by a couple from Michigan.

Sixteen years on, she returned to China for the first time to compete at the 2011 ITU World Championship in Beijing over the weekend and won a bronze medal in the Paratriathlon TRI-2 category.

"This is my first trip back to China since I left the orphanage almost 16 years ago. Sometimes I just thought the days in the orphanage were not in the same lifetime (as other people), it was such a different experience. There was a time I was not even sure whether I would leave the orphanage," said Bassett, 23.

"After so many struggles and ups and downs, to reach this far is really beyond my expectations. But I am grateful for the years I lived there because it taught me a lot about myself and what life really means. It gave me the courage and strength that I have today."

Long way from the orphanage

The petite Bassett, who stands 1.48m and weighs 36kg, has always been an active girl. But it was not until 2006, when she was enrolled at UCLA, that she turned to running, biking and swimming. Since then she has made quite a name for herself, including being a three-time silver medalist (2007, 2008, 2010) at the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships.

She acknowledges it is not easy for an above-the-knee amputee to compete in triathlons, but encourages more amputees to give it a try.

"It is of course very challenging and demanding. You have to be really tough. Every day I tell myself to never give up, to persevere. It's that kind of attitude that keeps me going," said Bassett, who is competing with a sport prosthesis by Ossur.

"I just continue to sign up and that's how I stay active. I just want to show other amputees what you can do as long as you have the courage to start."

After much success over the past five years, Bassett has set her sights on the Paralympics next year in London.

However, triathlon will not be a medal event until 2016, so she just started something quite different three months ago - sprinting.

"After this season in triathlon, I will mainly focus on track, the 100m and 200m sprints. They are completely different sports and going from one to the other is really hard. The body doesn't like it," she said.

"But it is exciting for me because it is another challenge. I have done triathlon for five years and have had some success. It will be interesting to switch to something new and, for me, track provides that opportunity.

"I will go to the trials next June and hope I can qualify for the Paralympics in London. I've got a lot of work to do. But, with enough practice, I think I can get there."