Aquil H. Abdullah won four letters in men’s rowing at GW from 1992-96 and in 2004 became the first African American man on the United States Olympic rowing team. Ironically, he missed qualifying for the 2000 Summer Olympics at Sydney by a fraction of a second (.33 of a second–or just seven feet). But he persisted and four years later, his first-place finish in the Olympic Trials’ double sculls competition secured him a spot on the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team in Athens, Greece.
After losing in the 2000 Olympic Trials, Abdullah considered retiring from the sport. Instead, he resumed training, competed again and won the elite Diamond Sculls race at the prestigious Henley Royal Regatta at Henley-on-the Thames in London in 2000, the first African American man to do so. He also co-authored a book, `Perfect Balance’, with Chris Ingraham, which concentrated on his quest to make the national team and his disappointment of narrowly missing it.
Abdullah, the second men’s rower elected to the University’s Athletic Hall of Fame, came to GW from nearby Wilson High School in Northwest Washington after starring as a 6-foot-1, 185-pound wide receiver on the Wilson football team. But he had started rowing as a high school senior and in 1992 accepted a rowing scholarship at George Washington where he majored in physics.
Born in Washington, D.C., and a member of D.C.’s Potomac Boat Club as well as the Cambridge (Mass.) Boat Club, Abdullah now resides in Boston, Mass., where he is a software engineer and plays a `mean saxophone’.