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World champion rower Angela Madsen

Angela Madsen (1960–2020), inspirational Paralympic rower

by Kirk Fox

Angela Madsen was the first woman with a disability to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean.   

  • Died: Monday, June 22, 2020 (Who else died on June 22?) 
  • Details of Death: Died at the age of 60 from drowning while attempting to row solo across the Pacific Ocean.  
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Inspirational Paralympic Rower  

Madsen was in the Marines when she had an accident falling on her back while playing basketball. The surgery at the Marine base did not go as planned and she lost the use of her legs. The military would not pay for her medical bills and for a while she was homeless. Madsen turned to competitive rowing in 1997 and became an inspirational athlete, winning gold at the World Rowing Championships three times. She also competed in shotput, winning a bronze medal in that sport at the 2012 Paralympic games. Madsen was the first woman with a disability to twice row across the Atlantic Ocean. In 2009, she and Helen Taylor became the first women to row across the Indian Ocean. She was an LGBTQ activist and is survived by her wife Deb.  

Her attempt to row across the Pacific Ocean

Madsen died on her attempt to become the first paraplegic, first openly gay athlete, and oldest woman to row solo across the Pacific Ocean. She was on day 60 of her journey, about halfway between Los Angeles and Hawaii. She had left a message on Saturday that she was going to have to do some repairs on the boat in the water but was not heard from after that. The Coast Guard did a flyover and found her body Monday floating in the water still tethered to her boat. Her wife Deb said in a post, “She was willing to die at sea doing the thing she loved most. She was a hell of a woman and one of the most influential and inspiring people in my life. I hope to live with a fraction of the fierceness of spirit Angela had.” 


What they said about her


Full Obituary: The Grunion

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