Mourning Angel Fournier

Dallas, Texas

3 minute read
Words Tom Ransley
Photography Igor Meijer and Benedict Tufnell
Published 16.03.23

Cuban Olympic sculler Angel Fournier Rodriguez suffered a heart attack and passed away at the age of 35, on Thursday 16th March 2023. The father of two was a three-time Olympian, four-time Pan American Champion, and triple medallist at the World Rowing Championships.

Credit Igor Meijer

Fournier represented Cuba at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in the men’s quad, one year after making his senior debut. He raced the single, double and quad in the 2007 season, and eight years later won two golds (M1x, M2x) and a silver (M4x) at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada. From 2009 to 2019 Fournier focussed on the men’s single. He won silver medals at the 2013 and 2017 World Rowing Championships, behind Czech sculler Ondrej Synek on both occasions, and won a bronze medal at the 2014 World Rowing Champions.

At Rio 2016 Fournier reached the A-Final of the men’s single scull and finished in sixth place. He placed seventh at London 2012, having secured his first World Cup medal (bronze) earlier in the year on the Rotsee in Lucerne, Switzerland. Fournier made his international rowing debut in the men’s single at the 2005 Junior World Rowing Championships in Brandenburg, Germany.

Fournier requested his retirement from the Cuban rowing team in 2020 and planned to resume his career in Dallas, Texas, as reported by CiberCuba. In an interview in January with the same publication, he said his reasons for retiring before Tokyo were family not health related:

“In 2019 I went through a cardiovascular difficulty but I had overcome it… between the Covid pandemic that had no end in sight and my wife’s pregnancy, I decided to request my retirement. With my first daughter, I had already lost everything that it means to be a father in those beautiful beginnings; with the second I did not want the same thing to happen to me.”

Fournier took advantage of his five-year US visa to leave Cuba legally. He was training and “losing weight” in order to restart his rowing career, and explained that his move to the United States was to give his children a better future: “Who wants to stay if there is no bread for breakfast… My family is my life; I dream it and live it daily and only think about when we are together again… I have to see my children grow up, give them a future and where better than in the United States?”

Fournier was married to Yusmary Mengana, three-time Pan American canoe champion, with whom he had two children, Ángel Lázaro and Natalia, aged 2 and 5.