Long Beach resident Angela Madsen is a Paralympian and world-record rower.
One inspiring grandmother is training to row her boat from California to Hawaii alone.
A few years ago, Angela Madsen gave up her first attempt after five days at sea. A year later, she made it with the help of a partner.
That goes with her life’s motto, never give up. Madsen served in the U.S. Marine Corps, when years ago, during a basketball game, another player fell on top of her, injuring her back.
“Thirteen years later, I had a surgery at the VA hospital and they took out the wrong disc, put the bone grafts in wrong and compromised my spinal cord in the surgery,” said Madsen.
She said at first she lost hope.
“I lost my job, my house. Relationship. Became a homeless vet. Just from everything to zero in 3 months,” she said.
But then she got back into sports, competing in the Veterans Wheelchair Games.
“And that just kind of revived me,” Madsen said.
She went on to compete in track and shot put at the Paralympics, winning a bronze medal during the London games. But it was another sport that became her true calling — row boating
“I just got in a boat and was a natural at it,” Madsen said.
She was on the national paraplegic rowing team for four years.
“Won four championship gold medals, won silver. The silver one was competing against men because there weren’t any women in the sport yet,” she said.
Soon she took on ocean rowing, setting her eyes on getting to Hawaii from California. But the first solo trip she took gale force winds, forcing her to call the Coast Guard, who sent a cargo ship to rescue her.
“Throwing out a rope with an orange life ring on it, saying jump, jump… And it’s like, I’m not a jumper,” Madsen said.
The next thing she knew, her boat was sucked below the massive ship.
“It was a turbulent ride… And you could see through the hatch door that it was that sea foam green glowing… The back end of the ship started coming up and I could see the propeller, and I just got spat out the back.”
Later a helicopter was able to rescue her. The next year, she took on a rowing partner, trading off two hours shifts at a time. Sixty days and one hour later she made it to Hawaii.
“There’s been an answer for everything and a solution to everything,” Madsen said.
Now Madsen is planning to once again try the row alone next year, hoping to become the oldest woman to row across the ocean at just 57-years-young.
“No such thing as can’t really. There’s always just better preparation and better training,” Madsen said.
Madsen has written a book about her journeys at sea: Rowing Against the Wind. She hopes her story helps other disabled veterans seek help.