"Adaptive rower Angela Madsen (USA) is preparing for her next adventure: rowing the Indian Ocean. Madsen will be part of an eight-person crew who are hoping to break a speed record for the row. Madsen will be the only adaptive rower on board. The race begins in April 2009 and follows hot on the heels of Madsen’s successful row of the Atlantic Ocean in December 2007. But unlike the Atlantic crossing, the Indian Ocean row will be in sweep rowing style and with an able-bodied, international crew.World Rowing talks to Madsen about her latest adventure."
Quotes from an interview on WorldRowing

"World Rowing: Were you this adventurous when you were younger?

Angela Madsen: I may have been adventurous but probably less willing to take risks. I lost my mother to cancer and remember listening to her list, in disappointment, all of the things she wanted to do in life but never got to do. Then after my double mastectomy for cancer I decided I was not going to have such a list. When an opportunity presents itself and it is something that interests me I will just do it. If I want to do something and no opportunity exists then I find a way to do it or create my own opportunity.

WR: What is your personal reason for taking on another ocean?

AM: It is definitely not the money! It is something that I really enjoy doing. It is as painful as it can be beautiful and the experience, except for the pain, will be different every time. It is not something I will continue to be able to do physically. I am not getting any younger and after looking at all the new x-rays and consulting with my doctor, I am not getting any better. Aging and continued spinal degeneration will stop me at some point so I feel as though I want to log as many miles as I can before I have to put my oars up. I also would like to raise some money to buy boats and equipment for our adaptive rowing programme. Rowing is an awesome sport for people with disabilities and I would love to be able to get more people in boats and on the water. Rowing has been very good to me and I want to pay it forward.

WR: Was there a time after your Trans-Atlantic rowing race that you thought, “never again”?

AM: I never thought "never again." I was only thinking that I would have to wait until 2011 to do the Indian Ocean so I would have enough time to generate the funds as well as find and train a new partner. Then this opportunity presented itself. Opportunities like this just don’t happen for no reason and I just don’t see how I could pass it up.

WR: Last time we talked you were starting to gain a bit of use from your legs. How much use do you now have?

AM: For the first two years after my surgery my life and my physical condition was as a doctor described it "a waste of human life". I could do nothing. I have utilized the sport of rowing and taken full advantage of the benefits of static load bearing which naturally occurs during the activity of fixed seat adaptive rowing. When I began I could only do fixed seat with a lot of straps to hold myself up. I started using elastic straps and developing trunk and core strength. Then I began being able to sit on the deck of the rowing shell without a seat and row trunk and arms.
Surfing led me to the discovery that I had developed enough strength to be able to walk on my knees through the sand to get out to the water. I thought if having noodles for feet was the problem then maybe I could do more with some braces for my feet. I had some NFO's (non articulating foot orthotics) made for my feet.

I could stand and support my weight with the NFOs. I tried them rowing. They did not work as they were fixed. I had another pair made (AFO's) that have hinges and have adjustable ankle articulation. I can
pull myself part way up to the catch with the oars and push back. I can get about 1/4 to 1/2 slide. If I go too far, I can get stuck. I alternate between sliding and not so I use a sliding seat but do not always slide.

A couple of years ago I tried out for our national adaptive team sliding seat 4+ and was not physically able to make the boat. That was the "as good as it gets" year. I had gained as much as I was going to gain. It took me 10 years and a combination of hydrotherapy, personal training and workouts, two hours a day, five days per week, other wheelchair sports, rowing and surfing. The goal was to walk away from the chair, the result was I made myself strong enough to row across an ocean; the reality is that the wheelchair is here to stay. I have always had difficulty adjusting to having a disability. If I had accepted my disability I could have become complacent and never pushed myself to accomplish more.

WR: What was the reaction of your family when you decided to take on the Indian Ocean challenge?

AM: After they got all of the details they were ok with it. My dad worries a lot but worries less knowing that I am doing it with seven other people in a faster boat. He still feels the need to tell me that he wishes I wouldn’t do it every time we speak on the phone.

WR: What will your training be like in the lead up to next year’s race?

AM: My training will probably be similar to before with the addition of some actual ocean rowing as I do have the Atlantic crossing boat with me. I’ve got my rowing machine and I go to the gym five days a week for two hours a day.

WR: Now that you have ocean racing experience is it harder going into this race with more of an awareness of what to expect?

AM: I think having the experience of a previous ocean crossing will make things much easier. There were so many things that I was totally clueless about when we began the Atlantic race that I pretty much learned as we went along like what drag and parachute anchors are and when and how to use them. When we trained with our boat we had no equipment on the boat; just the boat and the oars. No water maker installed no anchors, no navigation, no radio, not even a life raft. I began the crossing knowing only how to row.

WR: Will there be other adaptive rowers in your crew?

AM: I am the only adaptive rower on the crew. 31 able bodied men and one woman tried out for the boat. So far it is narrowed down to 12. There will be four alternates. Seven positions, including mine, are secure and the competition for the eighth seat is fierce.

I absolutely love that I am considered for my experience and my ability to be an asset to a crew attempting to set a record. How I am seen by the ocean rowing community today hopefully can become the way people with disabilities are seen in all communities and walks of life now and in the future."

In addition to this race Angela also started "Rowoflife" RowofLife began when Angela Madsen, a paraplegic, from Long Beach, CA USA, and Franck Festor, a single below the knee amputee, from Metz France, decided to ROW across the Atlantic Ocean in the Woodvale Challenge-2007 Atlantic Rowing Race. On Feb. 7, 2008, after 66 days at sea, they completed that challenge.

There were 22 boats in the race (4 persons, pairs, and singles) RowofLife came in 8th in the pairs class and 10th overall. This is a self captured video with clips from that historic voyage.

In this new adventure, Angela will be rowing in an 8 person boat which will be attempting a speed record across the Indian Ocean. This attempt will coincide with start of Woodvale's Indian Ocean Rowing Race 2009 which begins April 19, 2009 leaving Geraldton, West Austraila and ending at Port Louis, Mauritius. The race will cover approximately 3100 Nautical Miles (3567 miles).

Madsen’s website

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