Angela Madsen: “If I get blown off coarse now my mission is always to plot a new course to my destination regardless of how I came to be off course in the first place.” In the image with Richard Branson.
courtesy Angela Madsen, SOURCE
"To do that with this intense degree of difficulty that my physical condition imposes on me is a testament to the strength and inner power that we all posses as humans."
courtesy Angela Madsen, SOURCE
"I never made it back to life as I knew it and I have taken responsibility for getting myself where I need or want to go."
courtesy Angela Madsen, SOURCE
"It was the little victories and positive outcomes from my efforts that gave me the strength and hope to keep fighting my way positively forward."
courtesy Angela Madsen, SOURCE
"I am excited about the Paralympics and ready to go! A bit of anxiety or butterflies that are welcomed and normal at this level of sport."
courtesy Angela Madsen, SOURCE
Paralympics watch: ExWeb interview with adaptive rower and Shot Put World Record holder, Angela Madsen

Posted: Aug 28, 2012 10:25 am EDT
(Correne Coetzer) A gold medal and a new world record; that is the aim of a very determined USA Paralympic athlete, Angela Madsen. ExplorersWeb got to know her as the adaptive rower and skipper on Aud Eamus across the Indian Ocean from Australia to Mauritius, around Britain in a record time, and on Big Blue across the Atlantic Ocean.

Angela (52) booked in at the Paralympics village in London two days ago, ready to defend her Shot Put world record title and also to compete in the Javelin. The Games open August 29th. Angela went from rowing to throwing in one year, she tells ExplorersWeb in an email interview.

Nineteen years ago Angela underwent back surgery for an injury she sustained while on duty in the military. The Surgery went very badly and many mistakes were made. Angela ended up as a paraplegic in a wheelchair.

Cancer and more surgeries followed, but this woman decided to rise above her situation and revised her life goals. “I did not give up!” she emphasized. She excelled at adaptive rowing with “equal passion and as much natural ability as in my PWC life (pre-wheelchair).”

Angela tells ExplorersWeb how she did not just loose the use of her legs, but everything, and says what gave her hope and strength to go on. She also has advice for adventurers and tells about her training program. Diarize September 1st and 5th to cheer Angela on.

ExplorersWeb: How did it come that you started competing in throwing - we know you as a rower?

Angela: I went from rowing to throwing one year ago. I tried throwing at the Veterans Wheelchair Games and was encouraged to pursue it by the coaches and some other Paralympic athletes that I had met in Beijing.

ExplorersWeb: How do the competitors look like?

Angela: Thrower from Germany and former world record holder is probably my greatest competition in both Shot and Jav. I am the current World record holder in the Women’s class 56 shot Put, and world ranked number 2 in Javelin behind the German thrower.

ExplorersWeb: What inspiration did you get from the recent Olympic Games?

Angela: The Olympic Games were fantastic and I stayed glued to the TV in my spare time. Staying up later than I like but I survived. I caught myself channel surfing to find them on the TV and found myself feeling sad they were over.

ExplorersWeb: Oscar Pistorius, The Blade Runner, also competed the in the Olympics. What courage would you say did it take for him to stand there between the other athletes?

Angela: I have had the pleasure of meeting and watching Kate Sullivan and Blake Leeper, both double amputees, train and compete all year so can say that it took a great deal of dedication and hard work on his part as well as courage to compete in the Olympics and be competitive against Olympic runners.

He still gets to compete in the Paralympics so he did not have to give that up and it has been all positive. He is a fantastic athlete, an eloquent speaker and a wonderful representative for Paralympic sport and for South Africa. BTW Blake Leeper just tied Pistorius’ World Record so the 100 m at the Paralympics; should be awesome to watch this year.

ExplorersWeb: What did it take for you to be where you are today – from having the full use of your legs, then suddenly your whole world changed, but you come out tops, rowing oceans and ranking top and now completing with the world’s best. Was it easy to pick up the pieces?

Angela: I think some pieces are still missing, lol, but seriously, no, it was not easy.

I did not just loose the use of my legs, I lost everything... my job, "reapply at entry level if your physical condition improve", my housing, "3 months hospitalization", my relationship, "I did not sign on to be with someone in a wheelchair".

I worked 10 hours a day 7 days a week before my surgery at a job I loved; so I did not have many friends. I was completely alone in the world with no support system or help and found myself being taken advantage of and struggling to fight a battle for benefits against the ones who were responsible for my situation.

It was the darkest and most difficult time of my life. I had become depressed and suicidal. My life as I knew it was over and I died an emotional death having been dealt a great blow to body mind and spirit.

It was the little victories and positive outcomes from my efforts that gave me the strength and hope to keep fighting my way positively forward.

I never made it back to life as I knew it and I have taken responsibility for getting myself where I need or want to go. If I get blown off coarse now my mission is always to plot a new course to my destination regardless of how I came to be off course in the first place.

To do that with this intense degree of difficulty that my physical condition imposes on me is a testament to the strength and inner power that we all posses as humans.

ExplorersWeb: How does your training program look like?

Angela: Right now my focus is on the Paralympic Games. Most days I get up and go to a personal trainer at 5:30 am, then I have a personal throws coach that works one on one with me at 8 am, then I follow that up with a trip to the Seal Beach Navy Weapons Station fitness center for a core workout. Then it is Ice, Advil and rest.

After dinner is an hour on the erg, followed by hydrotherapy and then sleep. I don't sleep very well so often at night I will do another hour or two on the erg.

ExplorersWeb: What message do you have for adventurers?

Angela: If you feel naturally compelled and driven to seek adventure or achieve a goal of an extreme nature then do not allow situation or circumstance become an excuse for failure.

Go at it with dedication and commitment, being willing to do anything necessary to achieve your goal (legal and within reason). Don't sell yourself short or give up too easily.

ExplorersWeb: How do you feel about the Paralympics at the moment? When do you participate?

Angela: I am excited about the Paralympics and ready to go! A bit of anxiety or butterflies that are welcomed and normal at this level of sport.

My competitions are on the 1st of September for class 54,55,56 women’s Shot Put and 5th of September for Women’s class 54,55,56 Javelin.

Having spent so much time in London and circumnavigating Great Brittain in 2010, I am excited to return to London and hope to find some time after comps to meet up with friends.

ExplorersWeb: Future plans?

Angela: I have purchased a solo ocean rowing boat and plan on doing a solo row from California to Hawaii in 2013 as a tribute to friend and Ocean Rower, Orlando Rogers, who was tragically killed in a plane crash a little more than a year ago.

Hobbies: Volunteering at the California Adaptive Rowing Program teaching and coaching rowing and now throwing at Paralympic sport clubs and Military Paralympic sport camps, motivational speaking, surfing, travel, camping
Favorite music: Classic Surf Music, Contemporary Christian and Classic Rock
Favo Food: Cut up fruit, melons and pineapple
Favo Website: Ocean Rowing Society
Latest read book: Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Best expedition yet: 2007 crossing the Atlantic in Rowoflife with Franck Festor is still my all time favorite
Dream destination: Space or wherever humans say I cannot go!

Angela Madsen is a 52 year old Grandmother of three from Long Beach, CA who loves to surf. She is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a life member of both the Disabled American Veterans and the Paralyzed Veterans of America. Angela also enjoys working with newly injured vets to get them involved with adaptive sports. In February of 2003, the Amateur Athletic Foundation named Angela as a recipient of the Women Who Inspire Us Award; in September of 2003, she received the Leo Reilly, Jr. Award for outstanding spirit & determination, the 2011 California Paralyzed Veterans Association Legacy of Hope American Spirit Award and the City of Long Beach Press Telegram 2011 Amazing Woman Of The Year in Sports Category.

On February 7, 2007, she became the first paraplegic woman to row across the Atlantic Ocean. Her rowing partner, Franck Festor, an amputee from France, did not speak English and Angela does not speak French. They rowed nearly 3000 miles in 67 days, coming in 8th place in the pair’s class. There were 22 boats in the race and they were the only physically challenged athletes.

Angela competed on the US Rowing Team from 1999 thru 2008 and competed in the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, China. She is a 4 time World Championship Gold Medalist and a Level 3 Rowing Coach. She is the Founder, Director and Coach/instructor of the California Adaptive Rowing Program, a non-profit program which teaches disabled people to row since 2000. She also assists in the start up of new adaptive rowing programs nationwide

In 2009 Angela rowed across the Indian Ocean from Geraldton West Australia 3,600 miles to Mauritius an Island east of Madagascar. A Crew of Eight on a 58 day adventure that set many world rowing records. Fastest rowing crossing of the Indian Ocean, she is now one of the first women and first and only person with a disability to row across the Indian Ocean and also the first disabled woman to row across 2 oceans.

In 2010 Angela was part of another world record setting rowing crew of 4 women. They became the first and fastest women’s crew to circumnavigate Great Britain and Angela has become the first and only person with a disability to have rowed the 2,010 miles nonstop and unsupported from London Tower Bridge to London Tower Bridge in 51 days.

In 2011 it was back to the Atlantic Differently for Angela as a skipper of 16 on Big Blue. They left Tarfaya, Morocco on January 15th 2011 at 19:25GMT Arrived at Port St Charles, Barbados on March 4th 2011 at 13:25GMT. It was the first ocean rowing catamaran.

Angela is 1 of only 9 women in the entire world who has rowed 2 different oceans and is the only person in the world who has rowed 3 ocean crossings and completed the circumnavigation of Great Britain in a row boat. Angela has 6 Guinness World Records for rowing oceans!

Angela now coaches and helps out at Military and Paralympic sport camps & clinics in both Rowing and Track & Field. On Saturday June 30, 2012 Angela Broke the World Record in Women’s class 56 Shot Put, made the A national team standard and earned a spot on the 2012 Paralympics



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