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Abdullah is first black rower to qualify

6/30/2004

WEST WINDSOR, N.J. -- Aquil Hashim Abdullah became the first
black male rower to qualify for the U.S. Olympic squad Wednesday,
teaming with U.S. Navy officer Henry Gantt Nuzum to win double
skulls at the Qualified Olympic Small Boat Trials.

Their victory in 6 minutes, 23.59 seconds highlighted a morning
in which all four races produced Olympic qualifiers, completing the
small boat roster for the U.S. team.

Artour Samsonov and Luke Walton won the men's pair in 6:37.15.
Kate MacKenzie and Sarah Jones won the women's pair in 7:13.33,
marking the second straight race in which they edged Liane Malcos
and Portia Johnson by less than one second, and Stacey Borgman and
Lisa Schlenker won the lightweight women's double sculls in
7:02.43.

All four qualifiers won two straight races in the best
two-of-three finals.

Nuzum, who was stationed on the USS John S. McCain on Persian
Gulf deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2002
and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, qualified for his second
straight Olympics in doubles sculls.

Abdullah is making his first trip, overcoming the disappointment
of losing the deciding race of the 2000 men's singles finals by
0.33 seconds.

He said he hadn't thought about making history on the team.

"I'm just thinking about all the years of hard work I put in to
get here," he said.

Jones is also making her second Olympic appearance, finishing
sixth in the women's eight in 2000.

MacKenzie has overcome three years of adversity to achieve her
lifelong dream. She was slowed by Lyme disease in 2001, got cut
from sculling camp in 2002, and started on the bottom rung at sweep
camp before working her way up to stroking the women's eight to a
gold medal in the world championships.

In 2003, she missed the world championships with a ruptured
disc.

Samsonov and Walton will make their first Olympic appearances.
The 23-year-old Samsonov moved the United States from Russia at age
14 and gained citizenship in 2001.

Borgman and Schlenker are also first-time Olympic qualifiers.