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Paralympian Angela Madsen brings disabilities out of the closet

Angela Madsen

Angela Madsen is a world-record rower who brings disabilities out of the closet. Madsen has four World Championship Gold Medals from rowing on the U.S. Rowing Team and has six Guinness World Records for rowing across various oceans. Photo: Angela Madsen.

LONG BEACH – Angela Madsen is a world-record rower who brings disabilities out of the closet.

The 56-year-old Paralympian, who, in 2014, entered the record books as the first paraplegic to row from California to Hawaii, said being one of the grand marshals in the 2015 Long Beach Pride Parade was a sign of progress for LGBTQ people with disabilities.

“Being disabled, we get left by the wayside. Everyone across the board treats us equally bad,” said Madsen, a Long Beach resident, who also is a Marine Corps veteran. “But we are seeing progress. Disabled veterans are being included in more things.

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“Our LGBT people have not been getting much inclusion, but we are now,” said Madsen, who came out as a lesbian in 1981. “It’s progress.”

Madsen was resilient and overcame adversity. She was a Marine Corps veteran who became a parapalegic in 1993 after a failed back surgery.

After losing her job and home, Madsen rebounded in the late 1990s after discovering rowing and adaptive sports. She rowed across the Atlantic Ocean twice and was a three-time Paralympian.

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Madsen competing in rowing at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing.

Madsen has competed in four National Veterans Wheelchair Games and earned medals in swimming, track and billiards.

Madsen has four World Championship Gold Medals from rowing on the U.S. Rowing Team. She also has six Guinness World Records for rowing across various oceans: the Atlantic Ocean in 2007 and 2011; the Indian Ocean in 2009 and around Great Britain in 2010.

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About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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