Paralympian and Guinness World Record holder for rowing, Angela Madsen makes the impossible seem routine. In September of 1993 the then-military enlistee underwent surgery on her back for an injury sustained while on duty. Unfortunately the surgery ran into many complications and what was to have been a 4 hour procedure ended up taking 10.5 hours. The surgery left her a Spinal Cord Injury L1 incomplete but the ordeal only motivated her to attack life even harder than before.
While Madsen is a regular wheelchair basketball player and participates in other adaptive sports, her forte is rowing, an activity she was introduced to at Casa Colina Rehab Center in Pomona, CA. Quickly taking to the sport, Madsen soon became a rowing coach and started an adaptive rowing program. In addition to the physical lessons the sport taught, Madsen also learned how to live life through sport, how to set and accomplish goals and how to overcome disabilities and take on the challenges life presents.
Since 2002 Madsen has participated in five World Championships of Rowing, winning the gold medal four times. The only time she didn’t win gold was her first attempt in Seville, Spain where she took silver. The thrill of competing against able bodies rowers lit a fire inside Madsen that couldn’t be suppressed with mere competitive rowing.
Today Madsen continues to compete in rowing but is adding to her resume with solo rowing across the Pacific Ocean, a trek more than 2,300 miles. “Fear and doubt is a big part of what motivates me to try,” Madsen says, “It helps drive me to succeed and makes me train and prepare to accomplish what most people consider impossible. I’ll make a 110% effort for a chance at either succeeding or failing.”
Madsen launched her solo trip on June 9, 2013 from Santa Cruz, CA and though she did not reach her destination of Hawaii she considers the attempt a success and won’t let it deter her from trying again. “This is just a speed bump and there will be a restart,” Madsen says. “The voyage to Hawaii will be my first solo row which will make it the most difficult physical and mental challenge since my surgery.”
Madsen understands why people question her adventures but to her the voyage is part of overcoming everything that has been taken from her. “Most people consider what I do crazy,” she says. “I get it. The concept of one person experiencing the harsh life at sea for so much time is difficult for people to grasp, let alone when that person is a paraplegic with rods in her back.”