angela madsen rowing in hat and headlamp
Photo credit: Angela Madsen

Paralympian Angela Madsen Dies in Pacific Crossing

The three-time Paralympic medalist died at sea earlier this week. She leaves behind an impressive legacy.

Angela Madsen, an American Paralympian in both track and field and rowing, died earlier this week crossing the Pacific Ocean. She was attempting a solo crossing from Los Angeles to Honolulu.

According to the Press-Telegram, Madsen had contacted her wife, Debra, to say she was leaving the deck in order to repair an anchor component along the bow of her boat, Row of Life. After Madsen failed to respond to further texts, members of the U.S. Coast Guard deployed and found her body in the water, still tethered to the boat.

“We are processing this devastating loss. Angela was a warrior, as fierce as they come. To row an ocean solo was her biggest goal,” Debra Madsen wrote in a statement. “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.”

Madsen was 60 days into her anticipated 100-day journey. She rowed 1,114 nautical miles from Los Angeles and was 1,275 nautical miles from her destination.

Athletics_Madsen_Angela.jpg 2015 Parapan American Games
Angela Madsen at the 2015 Parapan American Games; photo credit: Team USA


Prior to her death, Madsen rowed across both the Indian and Atlantic oceans, and she also circumnavigated Great Britain.

Before rowing professionally and in the Olympics, Madsen served in the Marines. (An injury and following complication in surgery made her a paraplegic in 1980.)

Madsen won a silver medal in the 2002 World Rowing Championships. She won bronze medals in shot put in the 2011 Parapan American Games and in the 2012 Summer Paralympics.

Madsen holds six Guinness World Records, and she was working toward setting another as the oldest woman and first paraplegic to row across the Pacific alone. Filmmaker Soraya Simi was making a documentary about the crossing. According to the Row of Life Facebook page, the documentary of Madsen’s journey will be completed and released.

Mary Murphy

Mary is the Managing Editor of GearJunkie and is based in GearJunkie's Denver, Colo. office. She has a degree in English and journalism, and has a background in both newspaper and magazine writing. Her outdoor interests span from running to sport climbing, from landscape photography to skiing to pack-paddleboarding. If she's not writing, you can most likely find her at the top of a fourteener, or in a local bakery.