The world of competitive rowing was shocked to learn that one of its brightest stars had passed away at an exceptionally young age.
Angel Fournier Rodriguez, the most successful rower ever from Cuba, reportedly died from a heart attack at his home in Dallas, Texas at the age of 34, according to Row2K.
He had just recently acknowledged in an interview earlier this year that he had begun to experience cardiac issues in 2019 but that he was continuing to train and remain fit in his new home in the United States and had plans to continue competing in the future.
Spanish language news site 14ymedio reported that Fournier, as he was commonly known, was born in December 1988 in Guantanamo, Cuba, and began to row competitively as a juvenile.
He won his first medal during a 2005 competition in Havana, as well as many more in the following years, and was twice honored as one of the communist island nation's top 10 athletes in both 2014 and 2017.
In 2020, however, he asked to leave the Cuban National Team and moved to Texas with his family, and only just revealed in a January interview with a Cuban media out that he had suffered from "a vascular difficulty" in 2019 but had recovered from it and continued to participate in rowing competitions.
In sharing his plans to "lose weight" and relaunch his career, Fournier told the outlet, "I have to see my children grow up, give them a future and where better than in the United States?"
The World Rowing site reported that Fournier began rowing at age 12 as a "hobby" in addition to playing baseball and basketball, and explained in a prior interview, "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 honor in Cuba). I made the national team at age 17."
Initially rowing as part of a team, he participated in the 2008 Beijing Olympics but then transitioned to become a singles rower and competed in the 2012 London Olympics and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Additionally, he medaled at least three times at various World Rowing Championships and won gold three times at the Pan American Games.
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. pic.twitter.com/7SN6sQW80E
— World Rowing (@WorldRowing) March 16, 2023
CubaSI reported that the news of Fournier's death was mourned by the Cuban Rowing Federation in a statement that offered condolences for his loss.
National Rowing Commissioner Angel Luis Garcia said of Fournier's sudden passing, "It is a hard blow for all of us who knew him. We send our condolences to family and friends from the Federation to which he belonged."
Fournier is survived by his wife, Yusmary Mengana -- an Olympic canoer and three-time Pan Am gold medalist, according to Row2K -- and their two young children, five-year-old Natalia and two-year-old Angel Lazaro.