SCI Superstar: Angela Madsen

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By: Tiffiny | May 1st, 2015 @ 7:15 pm | SCI Superstars |


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A former Marine with one impressive athletic resume, Angela Madsen is a Paralympic rower who’s now passing on what she loves to others. Also in the Guinness World Records six times for her rowing prowess and a record holder in her other favorite adapted sport – shot-put – she’s a natural fighter.

Uncannily, rowing and shot-put weren’t sports she played pre-injury (basketball was her favorite sport), but these sports transformed her life post-injury, helping her move on and see that a fulfilled life was still possible.

Why she’s fearless

Growing up in Fairbanks, Ohio, Angela dreamed of warmer weather, moving to Long Beach, California after high school. Pre-injury, she became a mother and joined the Marines (she was assigned to police duty). While a Marine, Angela joined the Marine’s Women’s Basketball Team, a passion that allowed her to travel the world, but it also unfortunately is the cause of her injury.

Tripped during a game in 1993, two discs in Angela’s lower back slipped, causing her massive back pain. The blow of paralysis however didn’t occur however until she underwent surgery to repair discs. Surgeons accidentally removed the wrong disc, paralyzing Angela at L2.

Finding herself a paraplegic suddenly in her 30′s, her entire life began to crumble.  She was depressed, her husband (she had married) left her, the military didn’t want to pay her medical bills and to top it off, she lost her house. Finding herself homeless and even using storage at Disneyland to keep her things, Angela’s life was headed in the wrong direction….until she went to the National Veterans Games.

It was here where she discovered wheelchair-basketball, which is one of the first adapted sports she tried. This helped, but she still felt depressed about her paralysis. It wasn’t until she fell on some subway tracks in San Francisco a couple of years later (thinking she broke her neck) until she began to appreciate what she still had instead of constantly mourning when she lost.

This is the attitude that got her to try adaptive rowing, a sport that has etched her into the Guinness Book of World Records for multiple ocean crossings. In 2007, she made her first entry into the Guinness Book of World Records when she became the first woman with a disability to cross the Atlantic Ocean by rowing. She was also the first woman ever (disability or not) to cross the Indian Ocean a few years later. She went around the entirety of Great Britain as well. Long before all of this in 2000, she founded CARP (the California Adaptive Rowing Programs), which is still active today.

At the age of 47 in 2008, Angela next went to the Paralympics for rowing. While she didn’t win a medal, she missed the bronze by just a second. Angela finally won a Paralympic medal at the 2012 London Paralympic Games in shot-put actually and not rowing, throwing the put so far that she beat all previous Paralympic records.

What’s next?

Angela’s latest feat was in May 2014 when she left her hometown of Long Beach, California and rowed all the way to Honolulu, Hawaii, taking 66 days. She brought along an able-bodied friend as well to ensure she wouldn’t need to call the Coast Guard in case she got into a pickle.

Now 55 years old, Angela isn’t stopping any time soon. She loves surfing (on her knees), she’s remarried and she’s a highly coveted adapted rowing coach in addition to running both of her foundations, Row of Life, and CARP, which helps Californians with disabilities experience rowing. She also published her memoirs Rowing Against the Wind last year, which is available at Barnes & Noble.

Thank you Angela for giving back to the adapted athletics community in such a passionate way. Rowing is such an inclusive sport, as you like to say. Even upper-level quads can take part! Our community is surely better because of you.

Have you tried rowing?

- Visit Angela’s foundations: Row of Life and CARP

- Like her on Facebook: Military and Veteran Tribute Row

Watch the videos!

- Pushrim “Life After Injury” podcast. Episode 24 Angela Madsen

- Paralympic Athlete Angela Madsen Uses Trailer Valet To Move her Boat Onto Her Trailer (very badass)

- Kerry Morgan and Angela Madsen win bronze medals – London 2012 Paralympic Games

SCI Superstar: Rob Parsons

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By: Tiffiny | April 24th, 2015 @ 8:04 pm | SCI Superstars |


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For race car drifters, drifting is a way of life, so when Rob Parsons was injured nearly six years ago, a gear-head through and through who fell in love with drifting with his dad, he couldn’t give up his number one life passion. Instead of saying goodbye to what he loved, he said hello to a whole new way of doing it.

But it wasn’t a gift from some sympathetic donor or sponsor that helped him return to doing what he loves. After looking at how expensive adapted cars would be, he decided to start building an adapted drifting car in his own garage, and it is nearly to completion. Read on for his story below.

Why he’s fearless

Rob Parsons, from Alberta, Canada, fell in love with drifting as a young man when Canada allowed a specialized car from Japan to be imported, which opened up the world of drifting to car enthusiasts in North America. Drifting, along with anything else on wheels, including dirt bike racing, became his life passion.

But in June 2011 while racing in a dirt bike race, his love for speed bit back. After going off a jump, he lost control of his bike and jumped off. While in the air he saw a fence coming his way, so he tensed his body for impact, and then he did the move that he regrets – he landed stiff-legged on the ground.

He landed so hard that he broke both legs instantly and severed his spinal cord at T9.  One of his ribs also broke and pierced his lungs in the fall.  Needless to say he was lucky to survive. Rob spent six months in the hospital, and was discharged to a life his therapists might have thought would be good for him – adapted sports and forgetting his old life – but it wasn’t.

This was impossible for Rob. He decided to get back into drifting, even though it’s ridiculously expensive to adapt drifting cars, and he bypassed a large portion of the costs by building the car himself along with the help of some of his friends when needed.

The first car he adapted was a Nissan 180SX, which he completely built into an adaptive Formula Drift car. He even built his own hand controls from scratch using electronic gear shifter made by Mastercraft and an electro hydraulic pump to move the salve cylinder.

What’s next?

The car however wasn’t meant for just Rob. He wants to share his car with others with mobility disabilities, letting them know what it feels like to get behind the wheel of a powerful drifting machine. That is why this year he founded The Chairslayers Foundation dedicated to just that.

The foundation specifically wants to get a 600HP drift machine, a more powerful vehicle for drifting, adapted. What Rob and his foundation is doing is so cool that the Discovery Channel asked for their help to help fulfill the dreams of a boy with leukemia who always wanted to drift. Watch the episode here.

Paralysis can happen to anybody and Rob’s story is a perfect example of that. We absolutely love how Rob’s giving back to the community too, and with one of the coolest new organizations we’ve seen in a long time.

Would you try adapted drifting?

- Rob’s site: Chairslayer

- Add him on Facebook: Chairslayer

- Follow him on Instagram: Chairslayer

Watch the videos!

- Rob Parsons the Chairslayer

- Chairslayer Starts Custom v8 for the First Time

- How to carve a pumpkin via adapted drifting