Aquil Abdullah

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Aquil Hashim Adbullah was the first African-American male to qualify for the Summer Olympics in the sport of rowing. He was the first African-American rower to win the Diamond Sculls race at the Henley Royal Regatta in 2000.[1] He was also the first African-American male to win a rowing national championship in 1996, when he won the single sculls competition.[2] He attended George Washington University. He co-authored a book with Chris Ingraham titled Perfect Balance in 2001, after his failure to qualify for the 2000 Summer Olympics.[1]

Rowing career[edit]

Abdullah won the silver medal in the single sculls at the 1999 Pan-American Games.[3] In 2000 he missed qualifying for the Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia by 0.33 of a second.[4] He was also the single sculls winner in the 2002 United States national rowing championship. Abdullah won the Diamond Sculls race at the Henley Regatta in 2000. He defeated Simon Goodbrand by two-thirds of a boat length.[1] Abdullah was a member of the U.S. 2001 World Championship Rowing Team.[5]

2004 Summer Olympics[edit]

Abdullah paired with US Navy Officer Henry Nuzum for the 2004 Qualified Olympic Small Boat Trials in Windsor, NJ. Their qualifying time was 6:23.59.[6] Abdullah and Nuzum were also the first American men to qualify for the Olympic final in double sculls for twenty years.[4]

At the 2004 Summer Olympics, Abdullah and Nuzum finished sixth in their race, 3.93 seconds slower that the bronze medal pace.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Abdullah was born in Washington, DC, on June 20, 1973.[4][7] Abdullah currently resides in Boston, Massachusetts, where he works as a software engineer. He attended Woodrow Wilson High School in Northwest Washington, D.C.. Woodrow Wilson is the only public school in DC with a rowing program.[8] He played on the football team, but began rowing in his senior year. He took a rowing scholarship to George Washington University and attended from 1992-1996. He majored in physics.[1][9] He also plays the saxophone.

He was born with the name Aquil ibn Michael X. Shumate. When his father, Michael Shumate, converted to Islam when Aquil was 6, he changed his last name to Abdullah. However, he is now Catholic.[1]

Abdullah worked with a program in Boston named Mandela Crew. Mandela Crew is a program aimed at exposing minority youths from Roxbury to the sport of rowing.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e Berkow, Ira (February 21, 2003). "ROWING: Rower With Muslim Name Is an All-American Suspect". The New York Times.
  2. ^ "Perseverance Pays Off in African-American Rower's Quest for Olympics". Voice of America.
  3. ^ Powell, Camille (July 31, 1999). "Abdullah Wears Silver Medal--and Clothes--Proudly". The Washington Post.
  4. ^ a b c d Clarke, Liz (August 22, 2004). "No Medal, but Abdullah is 'Pleased". The Washington Post.
  5. ^ a b Haynes, Monica. "National Rowing Champ's Credo: Hard Work". Post-Gazette.
  6. ^ "Abdullah Makes History At the US Rowing Trials". The Washington Post. Associated Press. July 1, 2004.
  7. ^ "Aquil Abdullah". World Rowing.
  8. ^ Norris, Michele. "Abdullah: A First Among Olympic Rowers". National Public Radio. National Public Radio.
  9. ^ "Aquil Abdullah". GW Athletics. George Washington University.