Abdullah is first black rower to qualify

Updated: June 30, 2004, 9:46 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press