Long Beach Paraplegic Rower To Race Across Indian Ocean

Angela Madsen prepares for her attempt to row across the Pacific Ocean.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help bring Paralympian and long-distance rower Angela Madsen’s body back to Long Beach from Tahiti.

Madsen, a three-time Paralympian and U.S. Marine veteran who set out in April to become the first openly gay athlete and oldest woman to row alone across the Pacific Ocean, died at the age of 60 in the middle of that attempt. She was reportedly found tethered to her boat Monday, June 22, after getting into the water to make repairs.

James Brown of the Wine Country Marines veterans group based in Gilroy has already raised nearly $10,000 of the $50,000 goal Wednesday evening. The money will be used for travel expenses and final arrangements. Madsen’s remains are on the German cargo ship Polynesia, which is currently sailing toward Tahiti.

Madsen’s death has been reported around the world, from the Guardian newspaper in London to People magazine to the TV station in Dayton, Ohio, where Madsen grew up. Tributes have poured in as well.

  “Deb (Angela’s wife) asked me to put the GoFundMe together,” Brown said Wednesday during a phone call. “We met about eight years ago. Angela and I worked on the Valor Games (games for disabled veterans). I found out Tuesday morning when Deb texted me. I knew that Angela was quite the daredevil, so there is that inherent risk, but nobody thought this would happen. Angela was a force of nature.”

Jack Nunn, a long-distance swimmer who was selected as the 2019 Long Beach Aquatic Capital of America athlete of the year, compared Madsen to Joan Van Blom, the two-time Olympic silver medalist rower who also hailed from Long Beach. Van Blom died from cancer in 2015.

“I’m pretty devastated,” he said. “Angela was just the epitome of inspiration and not giving up. She has been a family friend for a number of years. You think the Ironman is tough (Nunn has participated in 14), she does it every day for 90 days. She has to do it 24/7 for months.

"Her story should be more well-known. There was nothing she couldn’t do.”

Madsen competed with the U.S. squad in the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, where she finished seventh in the trunk and arms mixed double sculls with partner Scott Brown. Madsen won four gold medals and one silver medal at the world championships during her national team career.

“Angela was really stubborn and would not take no for an answer, whether that was raising funds for adaptive rowing, advocating for veterans, or even trying to get her to change her rowing stroke,” Brown told the US Rowing website. “But that stubbornness, combined with her intense love of rowing, translated into so many great things that she was able to share with us along the way. Angela was happiest out on that wide-open ocean she loved.” 

Soraya Simi, who was documenting the ocean crossing for a film, posted on her Facebook page that she is flying on Friday to Hawaii.

“The count resets. Now we navigate moving forward without Angela. She brought us halfway. Time for us to pick up where she left off,” Simi posted.

Simi said she is not sure if she will be allowed to board a vessel that is heading close to where Madsen’s RowofLife is drifting to retrieve the cameras and footage. Hawaii’s governor has mandated that visitors from the mainland have to stay in a 14-day quarantine when they arrive; she may have to wait for the boat to come back to Hawaii in a month.

“I remember once I asked Angela what she does on bad days,” Simi wrote. “She said ‘row harder.’ That has stuck with me since. It is Deb’s and Angela’s wish that I complete this film. Carrying someone’s story is a heavy responsibility, one my crew and I signed up for, and one we will see through. Thank you for all the love. We’re feeling it.” 

To contribute to the GoFundMe for Madsen, go to www.gofundme.com/f/bring-our-warrior-home.

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