35-year-old three-time Olympian winner dies unexpectedly

35-year-old three-time Olympian winner dies unexpectedly.

35-year-old three-time Olympian winner dies unexpectedly. Image: Angel Fournier Rodriguez / Instagram.

Cuba’s most successful rower of all time, Angel Fournier Rodriguez, died unexpectedly on Thursday, March 16.

The news was confirmed by World Rowing in a tweet that read: “World Rowing is saddened to hear of the passing of Cuban rower Angel Fournier Rodriguez.”

“Fournier Rodriguez was a multiple-time World Cup medallist, Pan Am Champion, and 2x time Olympian”

“We wish to extend our condolences to Angel’s family and the Cuban Federation.”

Just shy of two metres tall and weighing 100kg, Fournier was a formidable figure at rowing regattas.

Growing up in Guantanamo, Fournier was approached by a rowing coach who invited the 12-year-old to try the sport. At the start, it was just a ‘hobby’ for Fournier with basketball and baseball as his main interests.

At the Men’s Single Sculls, Cuba, Heats, 2019 World Rowing Cup II, Poznan, Poland, Angel Fournier Rodriguez, said: “The Guantanamo provincial coach invited me to try rowing. He saw a lot of potential in me. Little by little I went training more and more. The coach told me I had the potential to make the national team (the highest honour in Cuba). I made the national team at age 17.”

Fournier relocated to the Academy of Sport in Havana and rowing became his main sport.

This fortuitous move led Fournier to the 2005 World Rowing Junior Championships where he rowed in the final of the single. Three years later he lined up at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in the men’s quadruple sculls. The crew raced in the b-final.

The following year Fournier started focusing on the single and opened his international season with an impressive fourth at World Rowing Cup I. Fournier remained in the single for the rest of his rowing career moving to become a regular a-finalist and earning many spots on the medals podium. For the 2012 Olympics Fournier raced to first in the B-final finishing ahead of Lithuania’s Mindaugas Griskonis and Norway’s Olaf Tufte.

Fournier went on to medal at three World Rowing Championships and finish sixth at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games – his third Olympics. He also took gold medals at three Pan American Games.

Of his career Fournier was most proud of his silver medal from the 2013 World Rowing Championships in Chungju, Korea, finishing second to his friend and rival Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic. This was the first-ever world championship medal for Cuba.

Being in the single wasn’t Fournier’s first choice but the limited number of Cuban rowers made it the best choice. Cuba has around 500 rowers although the numbers grew following Fournier’s success.

“You have to like it to be there alone in the single. You are all alone. It’s more dynamic being with someone,” Fournier said in a World Rowing interview.

Sports funding in Cuba is limited and Fournier’s coach had to juggle travel to overseas regattas with available funding opportunities including World Rowing’s development programme support. It did take Fournier to many countries including Italy where Lake Como and Varese became two of his favourite places to train. He was much admired and often had Italian fans waiting to see him.

Fournier left the Cuban team in 2020 and moved with his family to the United States where he planned to continue rowing. He died of a heart attack in Dallas, Texas.

Fournier was an incredible force and figure in the world of rowing. He leaves behind admirers and fans and a rowing family – especially his fellow single scullers – from around the world.

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Written by

Anna Ellis

Originally from Derbyshire, UK, Anna has lived in the middle of nowhere on the Costa Blanca for 20 years.


    • Alija Halilovic

      19 March 2023 • 18:07

      No cause of death here.

      • Lower

        19 March 2023 • 21:09

        “He died of a heart attack in Dallas, Texas.”

        35 y.o. olympian has heart attack and drops dead. The new normal.

        • Alija Halilovic

          22 March 2023 • 09:34

          Ok, I expected it earlier in the article.

    Comments are closed.