Inspirational Athletes Who Didn’t Let Adversity Stop Them From Succeeding
Bethany Hamilton, Carson Pickett, and Scout Bassett overcame larger-than-life obstacles and had successful careers in their sports. From Hamilton’s feat of being the first woman to surf in the Rip Curl Cup, to making it to the NWSL and 2016 Paralympics in Pickett and Bassett’s respective cases, here is an overview of three inspirational athletes’ lives and careers.
Bethany Hamilton began surfing at a young age, but nearly lost her life when she was 13 years old. In 2003, Hamilton went surfing with her friends and lost her left arm after being attacked by a tiger shark. The accident didn’t stop Hamilton from competing in the sport she loved. In an interview with Graham Russell for The Guardian, she said, “Even though I have been attacked, my fear of losing surfing was greater than my fear of sharks.”
A month after the accident, Hamilton began surfing again. In the same Guardian interview, she said her father designed a handle for her board “to help her duck dive under oncoming waves.” Her first competition back after the attack was just one year later.
Throughout her career, she’s won the ESPY Award for the Best Comeback Athlete in 2004, the Courage Teen Choice Award, and wrote a book, Soul Surfer: A True Story in Faith, Family and Fighting to Get Back on the Board, which also resulted in a film based on her life and story. Recently, Madman Films released a documentary about Hamilton’s life. The project began as a 10-minute short documentary about women surfers, but turned into a 1 hour and 20-minute film about Hamilton’s life and career.
Carson Pickett’s parents both played sports at the collegiate level, which led to her love of soccer. Her mother, Treasure Pickett, played college basketball and her father, Mike Pickett, played college soccer. At five years old, Pickett and her father would play soccer for hours. When she began playing for school and club teams, her father helped coach.
Pickett was born without a left forearm and hand, and recently partnered with Nike to create an accessible soccer cleat with “data-driven technology, which includes a fold-down heel for easy entry and a wrap-around strap closure in lieu of laces,” according to CBS Sports.
Before being a member of the Orlando Pride in the NWSL, Pickett played soccer at Florida State University. She played for FSU for four years until 2016 when she was drafted by the NWSL’s Seattle Reign. The defender was traded from Seattle to Orlando in 2018, and started 19 games and recorded one assist that season. In early 2020, she re-signed with Orlando.
With the Pride she started in 19 games (played 20 in total) and had one assist. In early March, she signed a one-year contract with Orlando.
“She’s been described as one of the smartest left-backs in the league because she has the ability to read the game differently and anticipate how to effectively ‘body up’ to competitors,” Nancy DeVault wrote in an AmeriDisabilty article.
In addition to competing in the NWSL Pickett’s been a part of Australia’s W-League, but also dreams of competing for Team USA, and eventually a sports reporter as she told AmeriDisability.
Bassett lost her leg in a fire when she was an infant and lived in an orphanage in Nanjing, China. She was adopted by a Michigan family when she was 8 years old. Twenty years later, she participated in the 100-meter dash and long jump events for the Summer Paralympic Games in 2016.
While she was still learning English, Scout Bassett tried multiple sports to help connect with her peers. She discovered her love for track and field when she was 14 years old. Once she started competing in track and field competitions as a teenagger, she found the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which helped her find her place in the sports world and introduced her to marathons and triathlons for her to compete. She wants to encourage more women with disabilities to compete in sports.
“You need sport in your life,” she said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “How it looks shouldn’t matter. What matters is how you feel.”
In her career, she finished 8th in the 100 meter and 10th in the long jump at the World Championship. According to Team USA, she also has won two bronze medals, both in 2017 for the 100 meter and long jump. She was set to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, and continues to train in pursuit of a gold medal.
In 2019, Bassett participated in the 2019 ESPN Body Issue.
“So many women struggle with acceptance of their bodies,” Bassett said in an interview with Yahoo Sports. “I wanted to shift the narrative about women with disabilities. In the world of disability, we often see male characters portrayed as heroes; they’re celebrated as bionic and cool. … This was just such a great opportunity to show how even though you are a woman with a disability, it isn’t a weakness. I’m not body perfect. I have scars and burns, but can be powerful and strong and just as beautiful.”