Angela Madsen, Paralympian Rower, Dies on Solo Pacific Voyage at 60


Angela Madsen was a wholesome younger Marine who was enjoying basketball when she suffered a critical again damage in 1981. When she had again surgical procedure a dozen years later, at 33, she awoke paralyzed from the waist down. She misplaced her job, her accomplice cleaned out her checking account and left her, and for a time she lived on the streets, sleeping in her wheelchair in entrance of Disneyland.

But her story didn’t finish there.

A pure athlete, she ultimately took up rowing and joined competitions. She began successful gold medals at world rowing championships and competed within the Paralympics. She then set her sights greater: to row the oceans. She conquered the Atlantic (twice) and the Indian Ocean and circumnavigated Britain, all with rowing companions or a crew.

In 2013, she tried her largest problem: rowing the Pacific solo, from California to Hawaii. But she acquired caught in a ferocious storm and needed to be rescued. The subsequent yr, she made the journey with a accomplice. But she nonetheless yearned to do it alone.

Finally, this spring, she set out by herself, leaving Marina del Rey on April 24 in her 20-foot lengthy state-of-the-art fiberglass capsule, Row of Life. She deliberate to land on the Hawaii Yacht Club in late July.

Credit…Debra Okay. Madsen

Others have made the journey solo. But Ms. Madsen aimed to be the primary rower with paraplegia, the primary brazenly homosexual athlete and, at 60, the oldest lady to take action.

She was two months in and midway to Hawaii when she found an issue with the {hardware} for her parachute anchor, which deploys in heavy seas to stabilize the craft.

She had been in fixed contact together with her spouse, Debra Madsen, in Long Beach, Calif., by textual content and satellite tv for pc telephone, and Angela was posting photos and observations on social media for these following her voyage. Debra mentioned in an interview that when she warned {that a} cyclone was coming, Angela knew she needed to repair the {hardware}, which might require tethering herself to the boat and getting within the water.

“Tomorrow is a swim day,” Angela posted on Twitter on Saturday, June 20.

On Sunday, there have been no messages from her. As the day wore on, Debra grew extra anxious. She may inform from monitoring information that the boat was not being rowed. At round 10:30 p.m. she texted Angela that their good friend Soraya Simi, who’s making a documentary about Angela, was calling the Coast Guard.

At round eight p.m. Monday, the Coast Guard noticed her within the water, lifeless and tethered to her boat.

The airplane couldn’t land. But the Coast Guard had already diverted a German-flagged cargo ship en route, to Tahiti from Oakland, to retrieve her. The ship was in a position to recuperate Ms. Madsen’s physique on Monday evening, however not her boat. The ship reached Tahiti on Tuesday.

Debra Madsen mentioned she could by no means know what occurred, until Angela, who was protecting a video diary, had turned on certainly one of her cameras.

She mentioned Angela might need been caught in her tether, or developed hypothermia with out realizing it. She may also have had a coronary heart assault or different sickness.

The reply could lie within the boat, nonetheless adrift within the Pacific. Debra is making an attempt to rearrange for its retrieval, which will likely be expensive, and for Angela’s physique to be transported to Hawaii for cremation and burial at sea with navy honors.

“I want her to complete her journey,” she mentioned.

Credit…Debra Okay. Madsen

Angela Irene Madsen was born on May 10, 1960, in Xenia, Ohio. Her father, Ronald, offered automobiles, and her mom, Lucille (Sibley) Madsen, was a homemaker.

With one sister and 5 brothers, Angela grew up studying to battle and play sports activities. All that was placed on maintain briefly when she turned pregnant as a highschool junior. A daughter, Jennifer, was born in 1977, and Ms. Madsen graduated in 1978.

She enlisted within the Marines in 1979 and was stationed in El Toro, Calif., as a navy police officer. She was in a position to preserve her daughter together with her.

At 6 toes 1 inch tall, Angela excelled at basketball and performed for the Marine Corps ladies’s crew. During follow in the future, she fell ahead and somebody stepped on her again. She had two ruptured disks and a broken sciatic nerve and for a time couldn’t stroll.

With remedy, she slowly recovered. She discovered work as a mechanic within the Sears automotive division and later at U-Haul. But she couldn’t sustain such bodily demanding work and took a desk job as a mechanical engineer.

Then in 1992 she broke a leg and a few ribs in a automobile accident. Already affected by spinal degeneration from the basketball damage, she had corrective surgical procedure the following yr, which left her with each legs paralyzed.

After the surgical procedure, the girl who had been her romantic accomplice for 4 years left, saying she “did not sign on to be with someone in a wheelchair,” in accordance with Ms. Madsen’s memoir, “Rowing Against the Wind” (2014).

Credit…Stacy L. Pearsall/Veterans Portrait Project

The accomplice took her automobile, her incapacity checks and her financial savings, Ms. Madsen wrote. With no cash for lease, she was evicted. She saved just a few possessions in a locker at Disneyland and lived on the streets together with her canine for a few months, till she was helped by the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

“When I celebrated my 34th birthday on May 10, I found myself wishing I had never been born,” she wrote. “My weight had ballooned up to 350 pounds, which made me feel more immobile than ever.”

Then got here an accident within the San Francisco subway by which she plunged headfirst from her wheelchair onto the prepare tracks. It left her with a gentle mind damage however led her to understand that she had extra to be glad about than sorry about, and he or she resolved to form her personal future.

“I stopped being a victim and started taking responsibility to retrain, re-parent or reprogram myself,” she informed Trekity, a web based travel e-newsletter for ladies.

“It does not mean that bad things no longer happen to me or that I am not victimized by people or that my life is easy,” she added. “I just improved my coping skills and took myself to another level.”

Always athletic, she turned to aggressive sports activities. She acquired concerned with the Veterans Wheelchair Games, and in 1995 gained three gold medals: in swimming, the wheelchair slalom course and billiards.

By 1998 she had found adaptive rowing for athletes with bodily disabilities, and by 1999 she had joined her first ocean rowing regatta.

It was as if this multitalented athlete had lastly discovered her sport. Ocean rowing gave her the possibility to compete towards individuals with out disabilities, and he or she relished the problem and the liberty from the mundane facets of each day life.

Credit…Angela Madsen

But largely, she cherished being out on the large blue expanse.

“It is monotonous, it’s frightening, it’s hopeless, it’s majestic, it’s exhilarating, it’s endless, it’s timeless, it’s exhausting, it’s rejuvenating, it’s painful, it’s joyful, it’s frustrating, it’s contradictory, it’s extraordinary,” she informed Trekity.

Even most cancers and a double mastectomy didn’t gradual her down.

She skilled, raced, coached and surfed, as a 2015 documentary on her achievements makes clear. She based the California Adaptive Rowing Program. She gained 4 gold medals with the U.S. rowing crew on the world championships and competed in three Paralympic Games, successful a bronze medal for the shot put in London in 2012.

Credit…Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images for Tokyo 2020
Credit…Francois Nel/Getty Images

She met Debra Moeller, a social employee, in 2007 when Debra introduced a disabled and abused baby to Angela’s adaptive rowing program. They married in 2013.

In addition to her spouse, Ms. Madsen is survived by three brothers, Ronald Jr., Clifford and Ira Madsen; her sister, Julia Jarrell; her stepmother, Betty (Hardin) Madsen; two stepchildren, Tiffany Corona and Ryan Moeller; and 5 grandchildren. Her daughter died final yr.

“Angela was a warrior, as fierce as they come,” Debra Madsen and Ms. Simi wrote on the web site RowOfLife. “She knew the risks better than any of us and was willing to take those risks because being at sea made her happier than anything else. She told us time and again that if she died trying, that is how she wanted to go.”