Marine Corps veteran and Paralympic medalist dies while rowing across Pacific Ocean

Marine Corps veteran and Paralympic medalist dies while rowing across Pacific Ocean
Angela Madsen of the USA competes in the women's javelin throw on day 3 of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games (Atsushi Tomura)

Marine Corps veteran and Paralympic medalist Angela Madsen died while attempting to row across the Pacific Ocean, her family said. She was 60 years old.

According to TEAM USA, Angela Madsen was a world-class rower. She crossed the Atlantic Ocean twice and was making her second attempt at a solo crossing of the Pacific Ocean when she died.

Family said after not hearing from Angela Madsen for several hours on June 21 an aircraft and cargo vessel was sent to check on her. She was declared dead on Monday night, family said.

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TEAM USA reports Madsen was about 1,300 miles and 60 days into her journey to row solo from Los Angeles to Honolulu when she passed away. Her wife Debra Madsen posted about her death on Facebook and in a post on, a website dedicated to her journey.

“We are processing this devastating loss,” Debra Madsen wrote in a post on “Angela was a warrior, as fierce as they come. A life forged by unbelievable hardship, she overcame it all and championed the exact path she envisioned for herself since she was a little girl. To row an ocean solo was her biggest goal. 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.”

With extreme sadness I must announce that Angela Madsen will not complete her solo row to Hawaii. I received her last...

Posted by RowofLife on Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Madsen enlisted in the Marine Corps shortly after graduating from Fairborn Baker High School in Ohio. She later played center on the All-Marine women’s basketball team when, in 1993, she was paralyzed from the waist down during a game.

“During one game, somebody tripped me and someone else landed feet first on my lower back during a game. That ruptured two discs in my lumbar spine, ending my military career. A botched surgery paralyzed me from the waist down,” Madsen wrote for Time magazine in 2014, obtained by Task and Purpose.

Madsen was homeless shortly after her injury until Disabled American Veterans helped her gain an appropriate rating for her level of disability.

She found joy in rowing and began training in 1998. In 2000 she qualified for the U.S. national adaptive rowing team. She won gold medals in world championships from 2003 to 2006. By 2008, Madsen was on Team USA and participated in the inaugural adaptive rowing event at the Beijing Paralympics.

“I have gone through so much and worked so hard to get herePutting on the uniform and representing our country at the highest level of sports is like gaining redemption of my birthright and fulfilling my destiny,” Madsen told Disabled American Veterans Charity in 2016.

Madsen also competed in the London Paralympic Games and won the bronze medal in shot put.

In 2016, she was one of 34 military veterans who participated in the Paralympic Games in Rio and placed seventh in women’s javelin and eighth in women’s shot put.

Retired Marine Maj. Nico Marcolongo of the Challenged Athletes Foundation told Task and Purpose that Madsen was an “example of the human spirit and what one can accomplish when one puts their mind to it.”