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Paralympian Bares All for ESPN’s ‘The Body Issue’

Paralympian Scout Bassett, all 4 feet 9 inches and 86 pounds of her, bared all for ESPN's "The Body Issue"

Thirty-one years ago, an infant was abandoned on the side of a road in China. That baby girl's right leg had been mangled in a chemical fire.

After spending the next seven years in a Chinese government-run orphanage, the girl was then adopted by a family in the United States. The adopting family named her Scout Bassett.

Seven years after her adoption, Bassett was given a prosthetic running leg and has since earned gold and bronze medals in sprinting and long jumping at Para-Athlete World Championships, and has earned lucrative endorsements from sponsors.

To see Bassett compete with her prosthetic leg is visually amazing, but her latest move was visually amazing in a much different way.

Bassett, all 4 feet 9 inches and 86 pounds of her, bared all for ESPN's "The Body Issue" with her prosthetic right leg there for all the world to see.

When Bassett got a hold of a copy of the magazine for the first time, she flipped through to her photos and held up an image of herself naked, hanging by her shoulders, and a big smile bursted across her face.

“This one was my favorite photo. It’s powerful, it's strong, its athletic,” she said.

And that's the message Bassett wanted to send with the pictures: that you can have physical blemishes, scars or something that's imperfect and still be strong and beautiful.

“It’s very easy to see somebody that has an impairment and see them as being broken or weak, and I don’t feel that way about myself at all, so I was very proud to see the photos and see how whole and beautiful they turned out to be," she said.

Paralympian Scout Bassett demonstrates how she changes her walking prosthetic leg to her running leg.

Bassett said another reason for doing the photo shoot was to challenge a common misconception she’s encountered -- that males with disabilities are often seen as heroes while females with disabilities are seen as weak.

“It is not a deficiency. You are lacking nothing. You are powerful just as you are, just hopefully to encourage more women who struggle with things, whether it’s visible or not, to be strong in that same way.”

Bassett is now putting the buzz from the body issue behind her and focusing back in on her sport.

She's one of the best para-athletes in the world. She can run 100 meters in under 16 seconds. She's training right now in Chula Vista for the November World Championships and the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.

“I always say the Olympics shows what the human body is capable of doing and achieving, but the Paralympics show what the human heart is possible of doing and achieving," Bassett said.

And what Bassett has done and achieved might not have been possible if not for the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF). When Bassett was 14 years old, CAF gave her a prosthetic running leg. Now seventeen years later, Bassett is paying it forward as a CAF ambassador and mentor to disabled kids. In recent years, she has seen a change in the mindset of the kids she works with.

“So many kids see themselves as being powerful, as being beautiful, putting on something as masculine like a running prosthetic and think that it’s cool. That gives me pride and excitement for them to know what they can do," Bassett said.

Whether it's working with kids, running in the Paralympics, or posing with her prosthetic leg in full view, Bassett says it's important to remember that the human body can tell a beautiful story, no matter what that body looks like.

“It can tell the story of overcoming such adversity, pain, hardship and loss as it has done for me, and to be brave enough to say this is who I am and to own all the parts of who I am, even the parts that are not the most beautiful or even the parts that are hard to talk about. You know, from the issue, I have seen so much personal growth and so that is why I am most proud," she said.

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