A spinal cord injury during her time in the Marines left Angela Madsen a paraplegic, but it didn't slow her down. She went to the Paralympics three times, including a 2012 trip during which she won bronze in the shot put event, and won several gold medals at the world rowing championships. But tragically, the 60-year-old died at sea while trying to set a world rowing record, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Madsen was attempting to become the first paraplegic—as well as the first openly gay athlete and the oldest woman—to row across the Pacific Ocean, from California to Hawaii. She set out in a 20-foot rowboat in April, planning a four-month trip. But on Sunday, her partner Debra Madsen posted on Facebook that Angela Madsen had not responded to text messages since the day prior and that, according to a tracker, her boat was drifting rather than being rowed.
Then, a filmmaker working on a documentary about Madsen's world record attempt posted the awful news on Madsen's Instagram account. They last heard from her as she was about to get in the water to fix the anchor on her bow, Soraya Simi wrote. When they couldn't get a hold of her, they called in the Coast Guard; it was an "excruciating" wait for news as they made their way to her, 1,000 miles from land in any direction. On Monday night, "her body was [found] floating next to her boat, still tethered," Simi writes. Prior to her death, "She’d been texting me jokes and seemed to be in her usual high spirits as she was so close to the halfway point and we had a celebration planned," Simi adds. "Angela was living her dream. She loved being on the water," Debra Madsen says in a statement. She had previously rowed across the Indian and Atlantic oceans, and had also circumnavigated Great Britain, the Guardian reports. (Read more rowing stories.)