Cuba’s Most Successful Rower, Ángel Fournier Rodriguez, Dies

Ángel Fournier Rodriguez of Cuba has passed away, age 35. Photo credit: World Rowing/Igor Meijer

19 March 2023
By Göran R Buckhorn

Sad news reached the international rowing community that the Cuban rower, Ángel Fournier Rodriguez, passed away on 16 March from a heart attack in Dallas, Texas. He was 35 years old.

Growing up in Caimanera Guantanamo, Cuba, Ángel Fournier Rodriguez was 12 years old when he was approached by a rowing coach who wanted him to try the sport. As Fournier loved basketball and baseball, rowing was just a hobby for him at first. However, the coach saw a lot of promise in him.

“Little by little I went training more and more. The coach told me I had the potential to make the national team. I made the national team at age 17,” Fournier told a reporter. He was accepted at the Academy of Sport in Havana and rowing became his main sport.

At the 2005 World Rowing Junior Championships, he finished 6th in the A-final in the single sculls. Only three years later, Fournier was racing in the quadruple sculls at the Olympic Games in Beijing. His crew ended up in the B-final, placing 12th total. At the next Olympics, in London, Fournier ended 7th in the single sculls and 6th at the 2016 Rio Games.

Ángel Fournier Rodriguez won three medals in the single sculls at the Worlds, silver in 2013 and 2017 and bronze in 2014. His 2013 silver medal was his country’s first world championship medal in the sport of rowing. Between the years 2007 and 2019, he won five gold medals and one silver medal in the quadruple sculls, double sculls and single sculls at the Pan American Games.

Martin Cross wrote on Twitter about Rodriguez: “He was such a cool guy – at his best he made sculling look SO easy – loved watching him race RIP Angel Fournier Rodriguez.”

Fournier’s wife, Yusmary Mengana, was an Olympic canoer and three-time Pan American gold medalist.

Fournier stepped down from the Cuban national team just prior to the Tokyo Games. According to Row2k, he has told Cuban media earlier this year that he had some cardiac problems in 2019. In the interview from January, he said: “I am in the United States, now in Dallas, Texas. I just turned 35 and I feel great. In effect, I requested my withdrawal and took advantage of the fact that I had a visa for five years. To restart my sports career, I have only one objective: to lose a little weight, otherwise, I am physically fit. 

Sadly, Fournier’s sports career ended last Thursday, 16 March. In an article about he passing, World Rowing wrote: “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.”

Ángel Fournier Rodriguez, born on 31 December 1987; died on 16 March 2023. He is survived by his wife Yusmary Mengana and their two children, Natalia age 5 and Ángel Lázaro age 2.

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