Angela Madsen, world-renowned Paralympic rower, died Tuesday as she sought to become the first paraplegic and first openly gay athlete to row across the Pacific.
She was 60.
Her wife, Deb Madsen, confirmed her partner’s death, according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram.
The U.S. Marine veteran would also have been the oldest woman to row across the Pacific alone.
Madsen left Marina del Rey in a 20-foot rowboat in April, according to the Press-Telegram, intent on reaching the Hawaii Yacht Club in Honolulu within four months. She was about halfway through her journey when Deb Madsen lost touch with her on Sunday, she said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
Injured in the military in her 20s, Angela Madsen had awakened from a botched back surgery to find herself paralyzed, according to a biography on Row of Life, a rowing organization. Undeterred from physical activity, the lifelong athlete went on to earn bronze medals in rowing and shot-put in the Paralympics.
From there she earned six Guinness world records in ocean rowing, becoming a leader in the rowing world, Row of Life said.
Her attempt to cross the Pacific would have taken her 2,500 miles. She brought all her own food, rendered ocean water drinkable via a desalinator, and rowed for 12 of every 24 hours, the biography said.
She was declared dead by the Coast Guard at 11 p.m. PST on Monday, wrote Deb Madsen and Soraya Simi, who was making a documentary about the rowing pro, in a statement on Row of Life.
Angela Madsen had been at sea “completely alone” for 60 days, the pair said, having rowed 1,114 nautical miles from Los Angeles. She was 1,275 nautical miles from Honolulu.
“Angela was a warrior, as fierce as they come,” Deb Madsen and Simi wrote. She had overcome “unbelievable hardship” to champion the path she had envisioned since she was a child.
Deb Madsen had last heard from her wife on Saturday, when she texted saying she was going into the water to do some maintenance. When Deb did not hear from her on Sunday, she alerted the Coast Guard, who found her.
“In a year of such tumult and bad news, Angela’s row was a beacon of light that gave us something inspiring to cheer for,” Simi and Deb Madsen wrote. “We all wanted her to succeed. We know she could have.”
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